A HARTLEPOOL cabbie who won Swinton Taxi Division’s Cabbie of the Year award in 2012 is encouraging fellow cabbies to enter the 2013 competition.

John Osborne, 45, beat 359 entrants last year to win the award after Swinton launched its national competition to find Britain’s most dedicated taxi driver.

One year on, as Swinton prepares to launch Cabbie of the Year 2013, Mr Osborne, whose daughter nominated him last year, said: “When I won the award I was totally shocked and obviously really pleased.

“It was a good feeling and my regular customers were really happy for me. I’d definitely advise other cabbies to go for it.”

Swinton Taxi chose hime as the champion due to his dedication to his customers and community spirit. For years, Mr Osborne has given up Christmas Day with his partner of 20 years and four children to take people to visit their relatives in hospital free of charge.

He is also well known for encouraging local cabbies on his route from Hartlepool Station to get into the charity spirit, by asking them to join him in offering customers journeys in exchange for donations to Hartlepool Hospice.

Swinton presented Mr Osborne with a cheque for £1,000 and a year’s free taxi insurance, a prize worth thousands.

Mr Osborne, who has been driving taxis for 19 years, preferred to share the prize money with his family rather than spending it on himself.

“I gave £200 to each of my four kids,” he said “and donated £200 to the local hospice.”

Steve Chelton, claims manager at Swinton, said: “When we saw John’s nomination last year, we knew he was exactly what we were looking for in our Cabbie of the Year. He was good hearted and happy to go out of his way to help others.

“We are delighted to announce that our Cabbie of the Year competition will be returning for 2013 and we look forward to hearing more inspirational stories from hard-working taxi drivers from across the UK.”