You wait ages for a bus, and then three casualties come along at once

Bus drivers are miserable gits, aren’t they, eh? All they do is sit there, driving around under pressure from a system that puts unreasonable demands on them, encourages them to drive dangerously, working unreasonable hours for low pay. Why don’t they just smile?

Or, if they have concerns or complaints, why don’t they report them?

Which leads me to the thrust of today’s post: There is no independent reporting system for bus drivers.

You should know that for almost 20 years, train drivers have had anonymous access to an independent system called CIRAS, which addresses concerns in a no-blame way. The goal of the system is to investigate concerns and eliminate the danger before something bad happens.

This is one of the reasons why Britain’s railways are so safe – drivers feel free to report concerns about safety, dangerous practice, unreasonable hours, or whatever. They can report to CIRAS, who will discuss with management and staff to resolve the problem.

The CIRAS scheme is clearly of use – Network Rail are members, as are TfL’s Underground, Overground and light rail services.

But for some reason TfL doesn’t use it for their buses. Why is this?

  • The scheme already allows buses, it’s not just for trains.
  • TfL already value the scheme, as they pay for their rail networks membership.
  • Adding the buses most likely wouldn’t cost any extra – what TfL pays for the trains would cover the buses too, as it’s one organisation.
  • And – probably the most important reason – is that TfL’s bus system is dangerous:

Every single day there are on average over 60 (yes, sixty) collisions involving TfL’s buses. (See this FOI’d data.)

A TfL bus is involved in someone being killed or seriously-injured on average more than three times every day in the first six months of 2014. (See TfL’s own bus data here.)

The number of incidents sharply increased when Mayor Johnson introduced bus performance contracts, and has been increasing ever since.

How many of them could be prevented by listening to the drivers?

If we listened to the bus drivers – and the system was changed so that they didn’t have to work over-long hours, so that they weren’t under pressure to complete routes in short timespans – then maybe we would all have reason to be more cheerful.

 


Thanks to Tom Kearney for most of the information here. If you don’t know about Tom, he was hit by a red-light-running bus on Oxford Street, was expected to die, woke up after two weeks in a near-death coma, and left hospital after ten weeks, to piece his life back together. He later discovered that TfL and the Metropolitan Police had failed to investigate the case (some might even say it was covered up).

This should come as no surprise, as the branch of the police which investigate bus crashes is funded by TfL – who are also responsible for the bus system! Talk about the fox being in charge of the hen-house…

Here are some links to articles on Tom’s blog, where you’ll find much more information and detail about TfL’s killer bus system:

How the police and TfL looked every which way they could to avoid investigating Tom’s near-death

Tom forced TfL – against its will – to publish bus collision data

The head of CIRAS tells us that TfL could add buses to the system

TfL and bus companies: Ignoring safety for profit

Guest blog post from a bus driver describing the system in which they work (there’s more of these, from various drivers – they’re in-depth but worth reading)

Finally, for now, can anyone tell me why the mainstream media has ignored this issue? It seems that Tom has uncovered dangerous practices which result in thousands of casualties every year, and yet few seem interested.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “You wait ages for a bus, and then three casualties come along at once

  1. Gar Howell

    If only Rail track had had such a system, the disaster at Paddington, some years ago ,would never have occured as it did. ALL the drivers knew what might happen, especially after a previous, similar disaster elsewhere, and….. it did.

    Every case for having a bus driver scheme the same!

    • Gar – read my response – CIRAS was intriduced to the railway because of Ladbroke Grove, get your historic detail right!

      Paul M do I detect a cyncism in your opening paragraph? the faux self employed drivers in the haulage business are gradually being eliminated by a combination of HMRC chasing and the requirement for due diligence on the part of the Transport Managers of haulage & bus operators to ‘know’ who is driving their vehicles.

      That due diligence has in most commercial contracts an ultra vires chain of culpability down from the principal client to the front line workers delivering the contracted service nem con of any buffering that is presented by sub contracting the work. Brirtsh Airways recognise this for thier code sharing ‘partner routes’ and National Express has a tough standard for acceptance and monitoring of their in livery contractors – after all whose name is on the side of the coach involved in any crash, The press won’t go up and read the 1″ lettering by the left hand wheel arch…

  2. Paul M

    Of course, TfL is different in that it acts both as prime contractor and as supervisor of the buscompanies, so is quite capable of operating a confidential human factors reporting scheme.

    But the working terms and conditions endured by bus drivers are not unique, in fact most professional drivers now face them, just as many other semi skilled workers in other fields do. In fact, I can only thik of one group of drivers whose conditions haven’t materially changed in the 38 years of my working life: London hackney-cab drivers. They are genuinely self-employed, collecting fares from the public and keeping them. Many own their own vehicles and those who don’t generally rent them from other small-scale cabbies on genunie rental terms (not like AdLee drivers). Fares are a combination of distance and time which fairly rewards the driver for his work – I don’t know how fares have ket pace with inflation, but in substance the arrangements haven’t changed.

    Meanwhile most drivers are faux-self-employed, ie they are really employed but in insecure piece-rate contracts, which often inmpose most of the risk on the driver – they get paid per trip but then have to deduct a daily charge for use of the vehicle. To make a decent living they need to do as many trips as they possibly can in a day. Hardly any surprise if they become reckless, impatient, dangerous. I don’t condone it, but I can undertstand.

    A bit like immigration, the solution is not in sanctioning the workers involved, but is addressing the inequities in the employment law which impacts on them, law which started with Thatcher, but was carried on by her disciple Tony Blair.

    I only hope that Milliband really does mean to address employment law, just as he promoses to attack NHS privatisation. It would restore my faith in politics if he did, and it might explain why the media is so obviously desperate to talk him down.

  3. CIRAS was initially operated in Scotland only, and when the Cullen Inquiry uncovered the failings of the rail industry to capture such vital safety concerns – 15 years ago last month for Ladbroke Grove one of the reports recomendations was to roll out CIRAS to the entire rail industry. It also delivered the Rail Accident Investigation Branch – which matches with Air and marine investigation of all safety critical incidents, and publishes objective and non-judgemental reports, providing the regulators (ORR, CAA, MCA) with recommendations to enforce changes which make the infrastructure and its operation safer.

    We have no such system for roads, but for the massively flawed Section 39 which mandates TfL and roads authorities to investigate crashes, and the mandates them to ADVISE THEMSELVES of changes required, and road safety inititaives they should implement. Ther is no requirement to publish this but several FoI requests are uncovering how poorly delivered this mandated duty is – some productions are worse than a poor GCSE project report. There is a regulator (of sorts) for the commercial users of roads in the form of the Traffic Commissioners, and a glimmer of hope that when the Highways Agency is turned into a Railtrack for roads, there will need to be a regulator, which, to side-step the creation of a new agency, by tacking on a roads section to the ORR (rail regulator).

    The safety culture on the railway means that not one passnger has died since 2007 compared to the days 30+ years ago, when over 40 per year died through falling out of slam door trains, and the rail industry just accepted that “it happens” So we have a position on our roads here nearly 2000 per year die with the same “it happens” acceptance. Perhaps now is the time to start asking that question Why is there no Highways Accident Investigation Branch and a HIghways Regulator? If the Government cannot face creating such additional agencies, then perhaps we go to the US system of a Transportation Safety Board which combines the existing Rail Air and Marine Investigation services under a single umbrella with a Highways element, after all the Rail and Air teams share premises in Hampshire, and use similar techniques to examine their crash sites.

    We may even have a testing ground in Scotland – trams in Scotland are not regulated by the ORR, and nor are incidents investigated by RAIB, yet in 6 months of operation we’ve had 3 bus-tram collisions on the same 400 metre stretch of road, 2 on the same 100 metres – yet no public access to any investigations or reports. We also already have Roads Scotland being operated by concessions – Amey, BEAR etc and our road operators regulator The Scottish Traffic Commissioner also has some links to the management of taxis and ferry services. The need is there and the time is ripe.

    Please press for dumping Section 39 and replacing it with something more effective, and perhaps trialling a Transport Safety Investigation Board for all modes in Scotland.

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