Lanes man Hus celebrates 50th birthday – and half a life underground

Lanes Contracts Manager Hus Ibrahim celebrates his 50th birthday today, but says: “I don’t feel 50, I don’t look like I’m 50 and I don’t think like I’m 50.”

He also said: “I’ll get that guy!” That was when he was told it was Lanes Rail Division Commercial Director who had suggested he should be asked to share his thoughts on his 50th birthday.

Well, actually, he said something else. But that is unprintable. Anyone who works with Hus will not be surprised to hear that. The words ‘larger than life’ and ‘colourful character’ perfectly fit a man who started life in rail drainage as a labourer 26 years ago.

Then, he worked for a firm run by Lanes Group plc Director Bruce Crompton. For the last 16 or so years, he has worked for Lanes Rail Division, as a night-time supervisor – he worked nights for 14 years – before becoming a contracts manager, and switching to days.

That said, titles don’t mean so much to Hus: “I don’t tell people what my title is. I just get on with the job. I am passionate about Lanes. If you cut me, I would bleed Lanes.

“In fact, I love doing what I do so much, and have been here so long, I sometimes think Lanes is mine. Sounds silly, and I know it’s not true. Honest. But it tells you how much I care.

“I love the job, because no day is the same. Every moment a new challenge pops up and has to be dealt with. I got married when I was 23, and I started on the underground when I was 24. Since then, my wife jokes I have another mistress, my job.

“When we started, there were 15 people working at Lanes. Now there are around 100, and a lot more sub-contractors. We’ve grown because we get three things right. We deliver on our work, we do a quality job and we care about health and safety.”

Hus’s reputation for being a character has been further enhanced in the last 12 months by his appearances in the Combat Dealers TV series, following the experiences of Bruce Crompton, who is a keen collector of military vehicles and artefacts.

The show was a big hit on Quest TV and has been sold around the world. It follows Bruce and his team of helpers, including Hus, as they go in search of old military vehicles and equipment to buy and refurbish.

Hus said: “It’s been a really good laugh. Sometimes Bruce likes to use me as his money man. So I would be carrying the cash when a deal was to be done. The worry I have now is that people might think I carry cash about all the time. Every time I come out into a car park, I have to look left and right. I want to say, for the record, I don’t carry much cash!”

He was also known on the show for his colourful language and sudden outbursts. “There was one moment when I was set up by Bruce and the production team. We were in a remote part of Germany meeting a bloke who suddenly said, ‘I have something else to show you. Some plutonium radioactive cores buried here after the war by German scientists.’

“I just exploded, and walked off camera, heading for the mini bus. I wasn’t going to be poisoned by radioactivity for Bruce b****y Crompton. Then they all started laughing and I realised it was all a set up.”

Hus may have reached 50, but he has no plans to slow down. He said: “I want to work for Lanes as long as they’ll have me. I can’t think of a life outside the business. In fact, if I left now, I would have to go back to being 21 again, to build up another working reputation.”

In fact, he has a cunning plan.

“Ever since I have worked for Lanes, they’ve been moving the depot closer to where I live. There have been four moves in my time, now the depot is 500 yards from my home in Rainham village. So I expect the next move will be into my house. Then, when I retire, I could stay on as the caretaker. That would work. Not sure what the wife would say though.”

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