IT’S official – Hartlepool has the best taxi drivers by miles after a town cabbie was voted number 1 in the UK.
The UK Cabbie of the Year awards crown is staying in the town for the third year running after John Rogers won the national accolade.
The title recognises cab drivers who have a heart of gold, provide the best company or are keen fundraisers.
The Mail told last week that John, 47, was nominated for the award by fellow cabbie Stephen Picton, who took the title last year.
This was a year after John Osborne, also of Hartlepool, picked up the award, ran by Swinton Insurance’s taxi division.
The three of them did the town proud when they posed for celebratory pictures during an awards bash yesterday at the Private Hire & Taxi Exhibition at Donington Park, in Leicestershire, attended by hundreds of people, including cabbies from all over the country and their supporters.
John, from Lawson Road, in Seaton Carew, who has dedicated the past few years to helping local and national cancer causes, said: “I’m gobsmacked. I totally did not expect to win.
The Mail reported last week that John, who is married to Joanne, 42, was dedicating the award to his sister Jane Rogers, a 50-year-old mum-of-three, who was struck down with a brain tumour and died just five days later.
John, who is dad to Lilli-Jo and has been a cabbie for 22 years, added: “The judges said I got quite a lot of votes and that I deserved it.
“I dedicated it to the memory of my sister.”
He added: “It just shows the calibre of drivers we have got in the town.
“I’d like to thank everyone who nominated me.”
John, who runs JJ’s Taxis, has raised around £34,000 for good causes including raising funds for tragic Hartlepool youngster Becky Bell, who died from brain cancer aged just seven in 2012, and Josh Dawson, seven, also of the town, who is in remission from an ependymoma, a tumour of the brain’s support cells.
He also helped to raise £12,000 for the Teenage Cancer Trust through the March of the Mods event, as part of a committee of 15.
Last year’s winner Stephen said: “Three in a row – what more can you say about Hartlepool taxi drivers?
“The hat-trick’s been done.”
And 2012’s winner John Osborne said: “I’m over the moon for John.
“It must be rare when you have hundreds of thousands of taxi drivers in the country, to get three from the same town winning the title.”
John, who operates school runs for special needs youngsters to Sunderland and Middlesbrough, on top of his standard fares, also took part in the Miles for Men event with Josh, and plans to do it again this year.
He won £1,000 and a year’s free taxi insurance as part of the top title.