A BIG-HEARTED bus driver has won plaudits from Lothian Buses for going above and beyond the call of duty throughout her 15-year career with the firm.
Ann McCracken, 60, has been transporting passengers around Scotland for the last three decades and scooped a prestigious Special Achievement honour at the Annual Employee Awards in the Capital on Saturday night.
Each Christmas, the great-grandmother dons a full elf outfit and steers the Santa Bus – a mobile grotto catering to youngsters – and raises money for the Sick Kids hospital.
She also represents Lothian Buses at regular university open days, championing her job and promoting the award-winning company’s credentials.
Ann has served as a bus instructor for seven years and runs a tourist service operating throughout the Festival.
Speaking to the Evening News, the bus-driving stalwart said it had come as a “tremendous surprise” to win the gong at the black-tie bash held at The Hub in Castlehill.
She was presented with a glass plaque, framed certificate and a cheque at the fourth annual awards, which were hosted by Guy Hughes, the human resources manager of Lothian Buses.
Ms McCracken worked briefly as a sales rep all over Scotland before a bus driver friend inspired her to enter the profession.
She said: “I met a friend, and she said ‘why don’t you try it?’ and I thought ‘I’ll give this a wee go’ and so I did.”
She also follows in the footsteps of her father, Richard, who also plied his trade on the buses.
Originally from Barrhead, Glasgow, Ann attended Barrhead High School and completed her driver training in Paisley in 1979. She is mother to Charlotte, 41, grandmother to Scott, 25, and great-grandmother to Cruz and Scott, who are aged five and one respectively.
After picking up her award, Ann reflected on the changes that have transformed the industry since she first took the wheel.
She said: “It’s different and for the better.
“There’s a much greater emphasis on customer care than before.
“I think when you pass your test when I did, it was just a matter of being able to drive a bus, stop and pick people up. Now it’s all customer care, health and safety. It’s come along a great way”.
She praised Lothian Buses as “the best bus company I’ve ever known” and declares her colleagues “lovely people”.
Ann says her previous job as a sales rep hasn’t got “a patch” on what she does now.
She said: “I think after 34 years it tells you that I like what I’m doing.”
And she has no plans to retire any time soon, adding: “I love what I do, I always have, I always loved driving.”