It’s all aboard

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It’s a busman’s holiday – just ignore local road-ragers.

Queenstowner Glenn Barrett loves tootling around the Wakatipu in his big red London bus.

Even though it’s brought him aggro from road-raging motorists – and plays havoc with his love life.

You’d think it would be a cushy number, ferrying tourists around the resort in the distinctive double-decker.

But Barrett reveals he’s even had to call the cops after getting abuse from impatient drivers.

“The bus gives a lot of pleasure to an awful lot of people, me included,” he says. “But unfortunately, there’s a small minority of mainly locals who seem to hate it because it’s a bit slow and smoky.

“I was once followed all the way into Queenstown from Arthurs Point by a guy who was furious because he couldn’t overtake me.

“When I finally pulled over, he had a real go. It was right nasty and I made a formal complaint to the police.

“I’ve also had a motorist come up to me at the petrol station I use all the time and demand I find another place to fill up.”

Barrett adds: “I can’t understand why some people get so annoyed, but I just bite my tongue and get on with it before going home for a good shower and a good swear.”

The amiable Englishman moved to Queenstown from Preston, Lancashire, in December 2003.

Within six months, he landed the job as main driver on the bus that takes visitors on popular three-hour daily trips from O’Connell’s Shopping Centre to Gibbston Valley and back via Arrowtown.

The Big Red has clocked up more than 500,000km since arriving in Queenstown in the late 1980s. Before that, since 1963, it had serviced the No 12 route from Croydon to Shepherds Bush in London.

But single guy Barrett admits his head-turning chariot is no chick magnet.

“I’m afraid sitting in the cab means I stink of diesel,” he laughs. “That tends to put women off a bit.”

One highlight of being behind the wheel is the friendly banter with visitors from all over the world.

And it also means Barrett can get recognised wherever he goes.

“I had a tourist come up to me at Christchurch Airport last year when I was waiting for a flight back to the UK and he thanked me for helping make his trip to Queens­­town so enjoyable,” he says.

“It’s those little things that make the job so worthwhile.”

Barrett, 52, has been in the transport business most of his life. And as well as working on the double-decker, he also does regular shifts for Connectabus on their local passenger routes.

But unusually for a driver, his favourite pastime is walking.

For years, every work day he even used to hoof it back to his home in Queenstown from Frankton after dropping off his beloved bus at its old depot there.

“I suppose it’s unusual for a bus driver to walk all that way, but it was a great way of keeping fit and I lost four stones [25.5kg] in weight,” says Barrett, who once tipped the scales at 105kg.

“But the bus is kept at Arrowtown now and it would take too long for me to get there or back on foot, even though I’ve started to put on a few pounds again.”

Barrett insists he’s in Queenstown to stay.

“Since I was a boy of six it had always been my ambition to live in New Zealand,” he says. “I became interested after a neighbour emigrated here in the early 1960s.”

He adds: “It took me more than 40 years to realise my dream and finally make the move.

“Queenstown has everything for me and there would definitely be no going back now.”