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A NEWPORT bus driver has celebrated his 50th anniversary of working on buses and become one of the longest serving drivers in Gwent.

Brian Townsend has been driving buses all over Gwent for the last five decades and yesterday marked fifty years since his journey began.

Of the 700 Stagecoach drivers working in South East Wales, the 69-year-old has worked the longest of all of them.

Arriving for work at the depot yesterday, Mr Townsend was met by old friends and colleagues and a transformed Stagecoach bus with the 50 on the front not dictating the route, but the anniversary of the driver. Printed on the side windows and back were large banners picturing Mr Townsend and congratulating him on his 50 years service.

John Jenkins, who worked for Stagecoach for 34 years, said: “We were all stood around the bus waiting for him and he didn’t even notice the pictures at first.”

Mr Townsend, who is also a Newport County fan, then drove him and his friends to Rodney Parade for a reception.

John Gould, managing director of Stagecoach in Wales, presented Mr Townsend with a certificate. He said: “These guys are the backbone of the business. They drive in all conditions and for Brian to come through that after all these years is amazing. You get 40 years – but 50 years of service is rare.”

Born in Newport but now living in Sebastopol, Pontypool, Mr Townsend shared the secrets of a long career. He said: “You go by your judgement. Treat people with respect and you get it back.”

Mr Townsend joined Western Welsh, which later became Stagecoach, aged 19 as a conductor. Many of the friends who joined him yesterday had since retired.

“I’ve known these boys for years,” he said. “There’s real camaraderie. If you’re in trouble they are there.”

Newport County goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley was the final surprise for Mr Townsend, as he appeared to present him with a signed Newport County shirt with his surname printed on the back.

As he edges closer to his 70th birthday, Mr Townsend may not have another ten years on the job but he’s in no hurry to retire. He said: “As long as I’m fit and safe, I’ll carry on.”