A ticket inspector who has given 30 years’ continuous service on the buses has retired from Stagecoach South.
Chris Pearce from Worthing worked across the area, hopping on and off Stagecoach buses to check people’s tickets.
On his final working day, colleagues past and present gathered at Worthing bus depot for a surprise send off, organised by his son Daniel, a Stagecoach mechanic.
Chris worked as a butcher and in the milk trade before joining the company in 1989 as a bus driver, based at the Worthing garage in Marine Parade.
His enthusiasm and customer service skills quickly earned him a promotion to inspector and he later progressed to standards controller.
Gordon Frost, operations director, said: “He’s been a real professional across all the years he’s been a member of the Stagecoach team and we all wish him a long, healthy and very happy retirement.”
As a fitting tribute, two double deckers carried dedicated messages on their destination screens. The vehicles chosen were a Coastliner 700, one of 30 introduced in 2018 on the Littlehampton to Brighton service, and a Southdown PD3 open topper from 1964.
Chris said: “I’d like to say it has been a pleasure working for Stagecoach and being part of an amazing team. I have met and worked alongside so many great people.
“I enjoyed being able to work and share my hobby in transport throughout my time with Stagecoach. I will really miss everyone and would like to thank them all for their kind words on my retirement.
“When I first drove a bus, the minimum single fare was generally less than 50p, South Street, Worthing was a busy main road and the Coastliner 700 was a limited stop service. Since those days, we have seen the introduction of low-floor buses, smart card technology and more recently mobile ticketing.”
Chris became a regular face to generations of customers and could often been seen boarding buses for inspection from Portsmouth to Brighton, Worthing to Petworth, and Bognor Regis to Midhurst. In more recent years, he has even ventured into Surrey and North Hampshire.
Edward Hodgson, managing director, was operations manager at Worthing when he first encountered Chris in 1994.
He said: “Chris has been a highly-respected and valued member of the team here at Stagecoach and it’s been my pleasure to have personally known and worked with him for 25 of his 30 years with the company.
“His dedication and professionalism has been an inspiration to us all and he will be sorely missed. I wish Chris every happiness in his well-earned retirement and I look forward to staying in touch and seeing him at some of the many transport events he so enthusiastically supports.”
One of Chris’s greatest accolades was working alongside Sir Brian Souter, Stagecoach co-founder and chairman. He was tasked with providing five vintage buses to take a group of apprentices across London in June 2017. The event even included a horse-rawn omnibus.
Chris was the perfect man for the job as his passion for buses has always extended beyond the job. He restores and maintains vintage buses in his spare time, including vehicles he drove for Southdown Motor Services, the predecessor to Stagecoach.
Chris said his love of buses started when he was a young boy in Worthing, travelling regularly on the Southdown route No.4 from Thomas A’Becket to Lyndhurst Road.
He recalls an outing to Gosport, where, aged 11, he persuaded his father to divert via the Provincial bus company depot at Hoeford, Fareham. There, he discovered the former Southdown CD7045, which is now in secure preservation under the ownership of Stagecoach South, and the Provincial Guy Arab EHO869, new in 1943, which has now returned to the road after 20 years restoration, thanks to Chris and a consortium of enthusiasts.
Maintaining an old Southdown tradition, dating back to 1964, Chris arranges transport to the Derby each year, in the form of six open top Southdown Queen Mary PD3 buses.
Chris is looking forward to spending quality time with his wife Denise and son Daniel. He will continue to maintain vintage buses and provide private hire transport for weddings, proms, etc.
He also plans to drive buses 12 days a year for Stagecoach, on special occasions, including the popular Goodwood Revival event, where a fleet of vintage buses conveys visitors to the event from Chichester.