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Wales welcomes Gurkha drivers

Last updated on: June 16, 2004 19:10 IST
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Gurkhas have swapped their homes in the shadow of Mount Everest to solve a recruitment crisis for a bus operator in rural Wales, reports the BBC.

Swansea-based 2Travel, which was so desperate for new drivers it opened a recruitment office in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, has employed 21 of the former British Army soldiers to drive passengers in Carmarthenshire, deep rural Wales, the BBC said.

2Travel's managing director Bev Fowles reportedly contacted army officials, who put him in touch with Bhim Rhai, a Gurkha who was coming to the end of his 20 years service with the army.

Rai, who joined the Gurkhas when he was just 19 and won UN medals for his service in Cyprus and Kosovo, a Gulf war medal and a long service good conduct medal for his 20 years with the Gurkhas, is now the company's traffic manager in Llanelli.

Pointing to industry estimates that 32,000 extra drivers are needed in the country, Fowles 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. 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," he said.

Rai's family has moved to the town and his children are settling in well at local schools, the BBC 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," he was quoted as saying.

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