Bideford bus driver who went the extra mile

A BIDEFORD bus driver who learned sign language to communicate with a passenger has made it through to the national finals of a bus driver of the year competition. Ron Fomes, 68, learned to communicate with Fremington student Aaron Bennett, who has no spe

A BIDEFORD bus driver who learned sign language to communicate with a passenger has made it through to the national finals of a bus driver of the year competition.

Ron Fomes, 68, learned to communicate with Fremington student Aaron Bennett, who has no speech.

The First Bus driver's efforts to learn basic sign language to make Aaron's daily commute to college in Barnstaple easier, earned him the First Devon and Cornwall's Superstar of the Month award in January, 2009.

He then went on to be named the company's regional Superstar of the Year and was subsequently put forward to First UK Bus' National Superstar of the Year final, where he now has a-one-in-three chance of winning a five-star holiday to the value of �5,000.


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Ron, who has been driving buses for the past 32 years, said: "I am slightly shocked and stunned to have made the final of the national competition."

Aaron's mum, who nominated Ron for the original award, said: "My son has no speech and it can be difficult for him to communicate with others: he uses a special device that speaks for him and he also has a card with the name of the bus stop he needs to get off at, and this helps him - and the drivers - when he boards the bus to college.

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"He gets along fine, but it was really touching to see one of the drivers making the effort to communicate with him. On this particular morning when Aaron paid for his ticket the driver, Ron, signed 'thank you' back to him.

"It was so lovely to see someone trying their hand at sign language; it's not a hard thing to learn, but it made a massive difference to us."

Marc Reddy, managing director of First Devon and Cornwall, said Ron was a credit to the company.

"He has gone the extra mile on a number of occasions, helping passengers and getting involved in the local community. He is everything you could want in a bus driver; he's cheerful and friendly, has an impeccable driving record and he tries to make a difference to everyone he comes into contact with."

The winners will be announced on February 18.

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