Award-winning local bus driver Mohammed Shabir has retired aged 66.
Originally from Pakistan and brought up in Middlesbrough, Mohammed’s been driving London buses for 19 years – and has been at the wheel of the 158, 257, W19 and W11.
He’s best known to locals as a long-standing W12 driver – with an infectiously positive attitude.
“To be honest, there’s no harm in smiling,” he says. “You know, when you go to a job, whether you like it or not, you still have to do the job. And if you do it better, and make somebody feel better, wouldn’t that be a better way?”
That attitude won won him TfL’s Year of the Bus award for exceptional customer service in 2014. Judges called him “genuinely inspiring”. He won Silver in the Top London Bus Driver category at the UK Bus Awards the same year.
“His managers have received more letters of commendation from the public than any other bus driver,” the UK Bus Awards said of his win – and last month, he received hundreds of comments praising his work on the private Walthamstow Life Facebook group.
Mohammed is done driving buses due to ill health – and says he’s looking forward to a trip to Pakistan.
But he wasn’t quite ready to give up his beloved bus, telling the Echo: ”I wanted to keep going until I was 70. I love my job.
He particularly loved his W12 route – through Walthamstow and Leytonstone on to Woodford Green.
“I enjoyed it, especially meeting the elderly,” he shares. “They were happy to see me, because they knew they were going to get a good [bus] ride. Once they see me, that’s it, they’ll smile…
“I treat everybody – doesn’t matter what race, what colour or whatever – equally.”
After nearly two decades on the job, did he ever begrudge giving a cheery greeting? Far from it. “If I show my problems, you’re not going to help me, are you?” he jokes.
And ultimately, he says, “it’s not what you are, it’s what you do and how you do it.
“How you act with the passengers is your bread and butter. If you don’t look after them, you won’t have a bus to drive. If I see people running for the bus, I wait at the next stop for them.”
When we ask if he has a message for his Waltham Forest regulars, he says simply: “Write down that I loved ‘em. You know, I’m really going to miss them, because it’s like a family.”