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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK
Gurkhas solve bus driver crisis
Gurkhas
The Gurkhas are driving routes in rural Carmarthenshire
Gurkhas have swapped their homes in the shadow of Mount Everest to solve a recruitment crisis for a bus operator in rural Wales.

Swansea-based 2Travel has employed 21 of the former British Army soldiers to drive passengers in Carmarthenshire.

The company was so desperate for new drivers it opened a recruitment office in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu.

Bosses are delighted with their new recruits who are now living in Llanelli after getting five year work permits.

Local people have really taken to the drivers. It's a pleasure to have them working for us
Managing director Bev Fowles

A shortage of bus drivers has become an issue across the UK.

2Travel's Managing Director Bev Fowles said there are industry estimates that 32,000 extra drivers are needed in the country.

He said the Gurkha drivers had settled in well to their new lives since arriving in Wales eight weeks ago.

"Some of them had public service vehicle licences and we have trained those who haven't," he explained.

"It's also very handy that they drove on the left in Nepal so they didn't have to make that adjustment.

"But the biggest bonus for us is that they are ex-British Army and therefore hard-working, loyal and have excellent driving skills.

"Local people have really taken to the drivers. It's a pleasure to have them working for us."

Transport manager Bhim Rai
Bhim Rai said he and his colleagues had received a warm welcome

Bhim Rhai, a Gurkha who was coming to the end of his 20 years service with the army has been appointed the company's traffic manager in Llanelli.

His family has moved to the town and his children are settling in well at local schools.

He said: "Everyone is very friendly and it's not really that different to Nepal.

"I heard about the chance of bus driving in Wales and it suited me perfectly.

"I knew a lot of my countrymen back in Nepal would love the job too.

"Most of them have HGV licenses so getting a license to drive buses was no problem for them.

"They have settled in quite well and some of them can even speak a bit of Welsh."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Rhun ap Iorweth
"Recruiting the famed Nepalese soldiers proved to be a challenge"



SEE ALSO:
Driver shortage hits bus services
04 Jun 04  |  England
Bus firms' Maltese solution
28 Dec 03  |  South East Wales
Who are the Gurkhas?
21 Feb 03  |  UK


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