Santa behind steering wheel

Left to right, Graham Button, Stephen Lines, Mick Gowland and Colin Thompson
Left to right, Graham Button, Stephen Lines, Mick Gowland and Colin Thompson

IT’S certainly been a festive December for this fun-loving bunch of bus drivers.

Residents have been rubbing their eyes and looking again as Stagecoach buses pass them around the town – with Santa Claus himself behind the wheel.

But behind the suit, beard and red hat sit a generous group of local drivers doing their bit for charity.

Graham Button, Stephen Lines, Mick Gowland and Colin Thompson, who are all from Hartlepool and work for Stagecoach North East from the town depot in Brenda Road, are hoping their festive efforts raise £250 for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

The final amount of money raised is then matched by Stagecoach North East – providing a timely Christmas boost for the charity.

The drivers have been pulling on their Santa outfits every morning throughout December and can be seen in their costumes for one final time tomorrow.

Graham, 44, who has been a bus driver for the company for the last four years, said: “The response from the public has been really positive, just fantastic.

“Everyone loves Santa Claus and I think our popularity has definitely increased for getting dressed up.

“It’s just good fun at this time of year.

“We’ve chosen to raise funds for Guide Dogs for the Blind as it’s a charity really close to my heart.

“My mam gets support from them and they provide such a good service to so many people it was a natural choice for us.”

Stephen added: “Us getting dressed up really cheers people up, our passengers, people we pass on the street and even lorry drivers too.

“People have even asked for our pictures.

“I really want to say a big thank you to all of them as what we do is nothing really. It’s their support which makes the difference.”

John Conroy, managing director for Stagecoach North East, said: “Graham, Stephen, Mick and Colin really get into the festive spirit to support Guide Dogs for the Blind and the public’s generosity never fails to surprise us.

“I think our passengers enjoy seeing Santa Claus driving the buses - it puts a smile on everyone’s face.

“I am always happy to support my drivers, particularly when they’re actively helping the community and raising money for a good cause, so we gladly match whatever is raised.

“I and the rest of the team wish them good luck and I’m confident they’ll reach, if not beat, their target.”