IT IS a bus company with drive.

From a modest start in May 2000, Top Line Travel of York Limited has grown to six times its original size.

No surprises then that the company, which runs tour buses as well as doing school runs and public passenger services, is pitching for Growth Business of the Year in the 2004 Evening Press Business Awards.

Because the success relies on so many staff - from drivers and tour guides to administrative staff and bus cleaners - the firm is also pitching for the Progress Through People title.

The company began with just three buses and seven staff and was the first City Sightseeing franchise in England.

Within five months it had begun its first local bus service with two new Plaxton buses and financial support from the University of York.

The first school contract came in September 2001 using York's biggest bus, a 105-seater double-decker, and by the following year, the company had bought the business of Guide Friday in York.

It expanded out of two separate depots and an office to a new large depot in Hospital Fields Road, Fulford, in December 2002. By the following September the company was running four double-decker buses to Fulford School, and a single decker to Canon Lee and St Wilfrid's schools.

This year has seen the continued replacement of older tour buses with more modern ones. But not everything is perfect. Managing director Peter Dew sees his biggest challenge as attracting new drivers.

"Not everybody has the correct driving licence. Many who do have been put off by bad experiences elsewhere and have left the industry. We can't obtain insurance cover for those who are young and inexperienced.

"Some who are older don't even bother to apply because they think that employers aren't interested. We are!"

But in spite of losing two experienced, well-respected drivers to cancer over the winter, with a third driver retiring, there had been excellent new recruits, he said.

Updated: 11:13 Friday, September 10, 2004