trentbarton and Kinchbus managing director Jeff Counsell retires today Tuesday 28 February after 24 years with the company and almost half a century in the bus industry.
And with impeccable timing, last week Jeff received his bus pass and vowed to use it well: “I’ll still be riding on the buses, and not just because it has been my job for so long. I’m a passionate believer in all public transport.”
Jeff, who started out in buses as a 15-year-old apprentice, said: “Retirement is a strange feeling but it’s starting to sink in. I will miss the people terribly. I will miss interacting with our people and with our customers.”
Jeff started as a 15-year-old engineering apprentice at Lancashire United Transport in the 1970s. He joined trentbarton in 1999 as engineering director and progressed to director of service delivery before becoming managing director in 2009.
His role directing both operations and engineering also encompassed the two companies’ relationships with national and local government, an aspect which has been of prime importance during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
“The last three years have been hard for so many people and for the bus industry. Covid and its aftermath kept me very busy but away from the parts of the job I love the most – being out and about with our people at depots, bus stations and on board.
“I have been very privileged to have had my career and the opportunities that came my way. It’s a great industry for moving around, experiencing different companies and regions.
“I didn’t set out from the engineering shop floor with a plan. It has been about being supported, seeing the ways onward and upwards and taking them. I’ve learned so much along the way in places like the North East with what became Arriva.
“It’s a relatively small industry. There are tens of thousands of buses in the UK but everybody knows each other. I’m still in contact with people I worked with in the 1970s and those connections run deep across the industry.
“Bus operators are nothing without their people and that’s been central to running trentbarton. We look after our people. And I leave very optimistic that public transport has a great future. It may be different, but constant innovation will get us there.”
Brian King, chairman of trentbarton’s parent group Wellglade, said: “Everyone at trentbarton wishes Jeff a wonderful and well-earned retirement. He leaves with our thanks for his many years of hard work and dedication to the company, its people and our customers.
“Jeff can be very proud of the many awards and accolades won by trentbarton during his tenure and also by the high esteem he is held in by so many in the UK bus industry and in the business community. We’re all the better for having worked with Jeff.”
Jeff said: “I’m looking forward to spending more time with my parents, my wife and my daughters and enjoying seeing my grandchildren grow up.”