WHEN Steve Walker’s press shots come back from the photographer, they’re a little different from the norm.

He isn’t in an office and neither is he behind the wheel of a bus.

Instead, he’s kitted out in an orange boiler suit, scrubbing down a vehicle with a brush.

Loading article content

Management, it seems, doesn’t preclude you from getting your hands dirty once in a while.

The experience was part of a job swap during National Customer Service Week, but the notion of graft isn’t anything new for Mr Walker.

He may be managing director of Stagecoach North East, but he got there by coming through the ranks.

The rugby league fan has more than 28 years’ experience in the transport industry, having started in 1988 as a traffic trainee with GM Buses, in Manchester, learning how to compile networks and schedules.

Two years later, he became schedules assistant and was subsequently promoted to schedules officer before taking the role as assistant operations manager in a North- West depot, where he was responsible for a team of 80 drivers.

After managing about 500 staff as operations manager in another promotion, he joined Stagecoach North West as operations manager for its Chorley base, in Lancashire.

A year later, he moved to Scotland, becoming the commercial manager for Stagecoach East Scotland, and, in 2010, he was appointed managing director for Stagecoach Highlands.

But he wasn’t finished there, and, in 2013, he joined Stagecoach North Scotland to look after its Bluebird business covering the North-East of the country.

So, after such travelling exploits, how does he feel about his latest venture?

Stagecoach runs nearly 500 buses across Newcastle, South Shields, Sunderland, Hartlepool and Teesside, which carry 63 million passengers every year, so is it a daunting prospect?

He said: “I’m delighted and I look forward to working with the Stagecoach team in the North-East, and our many local partners, to continue delivering high-quality, affordable bus travel and excellent customer service for millions of people.

“I am most definitely looking forward to the challenge.

“A lot of good work has been done here previously and I would like to build on that and look at the potential commercial developments across the network.

“The North-East is a bigger operation than Scotland North in terms of fleet, and with staff it is around twice the size, but it is smaller in terms of geography, so I’m looking forward to travelling less.

“With the main challenges being competitors, the car and congestion, we need to work closely with our stakeholders, including Nexus and Tees Valley Unlimited, to improve journey speeds for our passengers and grow our market.

“We also want to raise further awareness of the environmental benefits travelling by bus brings, which will hopefully reduce car journeys and traffic across our regional towns and cities.”

But how was his time back on the shop floor in that boiler suit?

In his orange get-up, Mr Walker was a shunter, charged with cleaning and refuelling buses.

He added: “I enjoyed getting my hands dirty with the rest of the team.

“The guys were great and it was a refreshing change from the office dealing with regional operations.

“We’ve got a great team and I’m very proud of the focus they give on providing customers with a good experience.”

Five minutes with...Steve Walker Favourite North-East building and why?

I am new to the area, so I don’t really have a favourite. But I am enjoying discovering the North-East with my family. It does have some fantastic and iconic buildings, like the Angel of the North.

What was your first job and how much did you get paid?

Traffic trainee. £102 per week.

What is the worst job you’ve had?

I’ve not had a bad job yet.

What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner?

It might be beans on toast. I am more ‘can’t cook’ than ‘won’t cook’.

What would your superpower be?

Telepathy – if only to read my girls’ minds.

Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party.

James Corden, Jack Whitehall, Freddie Flintoff and Jamie Redknapp.

Most expensive thing you’ve bought – other than car or house – and how much?

Jewellery for my wife.

Who is the best person to follow on Twitter and why?

Stagecoach North East, of course.

Favourite book?

Mud, Blood and Glory – The Inside Story of Wigan’s Year, by Neil Hanson.

When did you last cry?

Usually at anything sad on TV.

What is your greatest achievement?

Getting to where I am now in my career with a limited education.

What’s the best piece of advice in business you’ve ever been given?

Play the game.

Favourite animal and why?

The shark. They are seen as a killing machine but are so much more complex and misunderstood.

Most famous person on your mobile phone?

Andrea, my wife. Well, she is famous to me.

What was the last band you saw live?

LeAnn Rimes.

Describe your perfect night in.

Watching Wigan RLFC massacre St Helens on TV with wine, curry and my wife snuggled in.

In another life I would be...


Who would play you in a film of your life?

Peter Sellers.

What irritates you?

People who don’t give their best.

What’s your secret talent?

I’ve managed to convince everyone I’m worthy of being a managing director.