Stockport driver clocks up half a century behind the wheel

Between 1968 and 2018, the bus industry has changed beyond recognition. In place of public sector operators, private sector giants have taken over many of Britain’s bus services. One-man operation is something we take for granted nowadays.

Back in 1968, Stockport’s buses were operated by the North Western Road Car Company and Stockport Corporation Transport Department. Whereas Manchester City Transport launched the Mancunian style double deckers, Stockport Corporation retained its crew-operated buses. The Stopfordian vision of the future was made real by the swish Merseyway Shopping Centre. If there was a soundtrack to this, Granny Takes a Trip by The Purple Gang would have fit the description.

On the 02 December 1968, Higher Poynton resident Rod Garner clocked on at Stockport Corporation’s Heaton Lane garage for the first time. He started out as a bus conductor and, in spite of being told he wouldn’t last two minutes in the bus industry, he has stayed in the same industry ever since.

On his first day, SELNEC PTE was only a year away from its arrival as per Barbara Castle’s 1968 Transport Act. Tony Blackburn had the breakfast show on Wonderful Radio One (then on 247 metres on the Medium Wave band). Harold Wilson was the Prime Minister that year, and the Number One sound was The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly by the Hugo Montenegro Orchestra. Back then, Rod recalled that you could have got change from a £1.00 note for three gallons of petrol.

With only six months to go till his retirement, Rod has operated a number of service from the Stockport area. He has seen the arrival of SELNEC PTE, the opening of Daw Bank Garage in 1970, the chaos of bus deregulation, and the addition of electric hybrid buses.

Rod, speaking about his retirement said: “I’ve been fortunate enough to clock up 50 years working in an ever-changing industry, where my friends and colleagues have always been the highlight and have made working with buses such an enjoyable time.  

“I have at least another six months in me yet and will make sure I see out next summer before deciding on plans for retirement.”

Stagecoach Manchester’s Managing Director, Elisabeth Tasker said: “Rod has demonstrated a tremendous amount of loyalty to Stagecoach and the bus industry as a whole over the last 50 years and is one of the strongest characters in the Stockport depot.

“I want to congratulate him on celebrating such a huge milestone and thank him for his tireless years of service. He’s an extremely valuable member of the team and we’re not ready to let go of him just yet!”

Rod must have a lot of stories to tell about his time in the bus industry. Enough to fill a book or to consider a one-off talk at the Stockport Garrick Theatre. If you are reading this post, Rod, we wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

An EM60 Presentation, 21 December 2018.

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