Dedicated staff who kept the buses running across the region for a combined total of 718 years have been recognised with long service awards.

Nearly 30 bus drivers, engineers, fitters, driving instructors and office staff who have worked for Stagecoach for as long as 40 years were celebrated at a special ceremony at the Low Wood Bay Resort and Spa, Windermere, on September 24.

Six of those who received awards have retired, with the rest still working at the company’s Barrow, Carlisle, Kendal, Morecambe/Lancaster and West Cumbria depots.

Steven Rudd, a driver based in Stagecoach’s Penrith depot, received his award after working for the company for 26 years.

He began his career at Stagecoach as a driver in Carlisle. However, he enjoyed his time helping out at the Penrith depot one summer so much that he opted to stay.

“There are only 12 of us here and we’ve been working together for a long time now so it’s like a little family group,” he said.

“It’s a very secure job and I have really enjoyed working here over the years.

“I was quite taken aback by the award and the evening they put on for us to be honest. It was nice for my wife Elaine to get a bunch of flowers as well, in recognition of all the support she’s given me.”

Ken Gillespie worked for Stagecoach as a driver from 1987 to 1999 before having a short break to travel and then returning in 1999.

“I love the fact that I get to drive the bus out into the countryside,” said Ken, 60.

“It’s great to be out on a sunny day driving into the Lakes and chatting with passengers and having a laugh with them. You get to know certain passengers very well and, of course, you build a great comradeship with your fellow workers.”

As a rep for the RMT union Ken says he has been given the opportunity to take courses and learn about everything from dyslexia to cancer care so he can better support his fellow workers.

“It was a lovely evening and it was nice to be able to introduce my wife Suzanne to all of my work colleagues and for her to get a bit of a treat as well.”

Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancashire managing director Rob Jones said: “It was a privilege to have all of that experience in one room and have the opportunity to thank people for supporting the company, each other and - most importantly - our passengers over the decades.”