National Express West Midlands (NXWM) Chief Technician Darren Astbury (pictured, centre) has been named Road Transport Engineer of the Year at the Society of Operations Engineers (SOE) Safety and Sustainability Awards.
Mr Astbury has been recognised for his work in protecting customers and staff and for consistently producing excellent results. That includes the interrogation of vehicle breakdowns. It has led to a 47% reduction in occurrence across the operator’s fleet, with detailed root cause analysis leading to the development of preventative long-term fixes.
Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic Mr Astbury created a seating map to support social distancing and allow continued safe travel for customers and drivers. That work was held up as “an example of good practice by others within the bus industry,” says NXWM.
Other achievements include improving the energy efficiency of the operator’s 29 battery-electric buses while ensuring that the risk of virus transmission was mitigated via the use of biofilters, allowing their windows to remain closed.
Mr Astbury began his career with the operator 24 years ago as an apprentice diesel fitter. He moved to the central engineering team as Technical Assistant in 2001. After a short period away he returned to NXWM in 2017 to lead the central engineering team.
Commenting on the news, he says: “I was a little surprised and am extremely grateful to SEO for this award and recognition. I will be the first to admit that as engineers, we tend to get on with the job that we love, but this serves as a timely reminder of the important role that we play in the coach and bus industry, and that it should be celebrated.
“If I think about where I started 24 years ago and where I am now, it has been quite the ride with all of the project and challenges that I’ve worked on and the knowledge and skills that I have gained.
“There are brilliant opportunities for engineers to make a difference in public transport. With the introduction of zero-emission vehicles and the advancements in technology that are becoming increasingly important, it really is such an exciting time to be an engineer.”