Stagecoach bus driver proposes in front of bus displaying ‘Will You Marry Me?’

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Fellow Exeter bus drivers Chris Oakley and Fiona Smith in front of the bus

Exeter bus driver Chris Oakley proposed to his partner of two years, fellow driver Fiona Smith, on Tuesday 2 March in front of an Optare Solo bearing a ‘Will You Marry Me? display.

Chris and Fiona met driving buses for Stagecoach in Exeter; Chris had joined the company in 2016, whilst Fiona started with Stagecoach in 2019. The couple began their relationship not long after Fiona became a driver at the Exeter depot.

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When asked how they first met, they explained that Fiona had been assigned a shift on the Exeter City E and F routes, which are operated by Optare Solos. Despite the rigorous training all new Stagecoach drivers complete, Fiona still wasn’t sure about some of the elements of the route.

Chris added: “She had refused to drive the Optares on the Es and Fs and had a bit of tantrum about it!”

Kindly, Chris stepped in, and they swapped shifts for the day. Later he spent time with her to go over the routes she’d been worried about, and Fiona confessed: “I now drive them twice a week, no problem!”

She said they became good friends after he’d coached her though the route learning, firstly talking more often and eventually love blossomed for the pair.

Chris said: “I knew within six months that she was the one!” He revealed that after a recent health scare he couldn’t wait any longer to propose. When thinking about the event he had imagined that he would take Fiona abroad for the special occasion, however sadly with travel restrictions in place, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he knew this wouldn’t be an option.

It was then that he dreamed up the idea of getting down on one knee at the place they’d first met – the Stagecoach bus depot based at Matford in Exeter. The couple shared that this was very special to them, as it marked the start of their relationship, and future married life together.

Chris thanked everybody who played a part in the surprise; he revealed that he’d kept the group of people in the know very small, and that it had been very difficult to keep the event under wraps. He mentioned that a couple of his fellow drivers had spotted the display being set up, but did a great job of keeping quiet.

Fiona said she is ’on cloud nine’ after the romantic gesture, and had ‘no idea at all’ that Chris was planning the surprise. Despite the happy ending, Chris said that he ‘was petrified’ in the build up to the proposal. With the proposal taking place at work, there were a lot of drivers signing on for their duty and the event got everyone’s attention. Although he was hoping for a yes he was ‘a bit worried that it could’ve been a no’ which he confessed would not have been great with everyone watching!

The newly engaged couple are already planning their big day. “We only got engaged yesterday, but we should have the wedding organised by the weekend!” said Fiona. They shared that they have a special date in mind and that they are currently looking at venues.