Mark and bus on way to Ukraine

A Nantwich train driver has helped a team of volunteers drive buses across to Ukraine to transport children to safety from their war-torn country.

Mark Hardy-Johnson, who drives train by day, signed up to help when he saw an appeal on social media for drivers.

Three buses were donated by Arriva Bus UK to a US charity called Aerial Recovery Group, who needed vehicles to transport children from a Ukrainian orphanage across the border to safety.

And within 72 hours of the appeal going out, Mark had signed up along with six other drivers to help out.

Mark travelled across to Barnsley where the buses were waiting for their journey.

He teamed up with fellow volunteers John Bickerton, Lynne Beale, Robert Gray, Ian Grenville Watts, Craig George and Kieran Proctor.

They travelled to Hull, took a ferry to Rotterdam, and began the journey across Europe to Ukraine, transporting medical equipment including ultra-sound scanners for hospitals in dire need.

Nantwich driver journey to Ukraine

They finally arrived in Rzeszów, Poland,and were taken over the border into Ukraine.

Mark said: “The support we received along the way was incredible!

“I just hope that the buses will be able to get many young people and families to safety while they’re needed.

“We all came together thanks to the ‘power’ of social media.

“None of us had met before, although John and Lynn both work for Arriva in separate departments so they took on a lot of the admin.”

Mark, now a train driver instructor with Transport for Wales, obtained a bus driving licence when he used to work at Reaseheath College.

“I fancied a career change onto the railway, I took the test so that I had a back-up career if things didn’t go to plan,” he said.

“I got involved because having done different charity events and donating money throughout my life, I finally got the chance to do something beneficial with a skill that I’ve got.

“I’d go again tomorrow if I was asked.

Bus drivers heading for Ukraine

“And I wish I could’ve actually gone into Ukraine to rescue the kids myself.

“We then flew back from Krakow to Manchester, via a very early morning train from Rzeszów.

“Two of the buses are definitely now in Ukraine and going strong, the third was apparently going yesterday but we’ve not had any confirmation yet.

“They’re hoping to get at least 3-4 months use out of the buses, which will be some achievement but I’m hopeful that they’ll keep going.”

three buses ready for Ukraine

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