Action needed to keep our bus drivers safe

IN SEPTEMBER 2016, then transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe announced a bus driver safety review. “People have a right to go to work and come home each day, safe and free from abuse,” Mr Hinchliffe said at the time.

The following month a 59-year-old bus driver spoke out through the Redland City Bulletin about being spat in the face by passengers travelling from Capalaba to Carindale.

It was during the same week that driver Manmeet Sharma died when he was burned in an attack on a bus at Moorooka.

This week the Bulletin reports on two assaults at the Capalaba bus interchange. In one, a bus driver was hospitalised after being punched in the head multiple times. Just a week later, police reported another incident occurred when staff members refused to allow a teenager to travel without payment.

Police have arrested two teenagers in connection with the separate incidents. A 17-year-old faces one charge each of unlawful entry of a vehicle and assault occasioning bodily harm for the first incident. 

For the second, a 15-year-old has been charged with two counts of common assault and one of public nuisance.

Nearly two years after Mr Hinchliffe’s review was announced, drivers are still facing dangerous situations in the course of their work.

A bus driver, not involved in either incident, describes Capalaba bus interchange as infamous: “Why hasn’t more been done to improve security at this and other high risk locations? The Queensland government report into bus driver safety was handed down 11 months ago. The time to act was yesterday. Real time camera surveillance and improved bus security are needed now.”

The review report states that our state’s bus drivers are routinely exposed to violence, verbal abuse being the most common.

In June, Transport Minister Mark Bailey announced the government’s final response to the review as a five-point safety package. The plan includes money for protective driver safety barriers, anti-shatter window film and CCTV, duress and radio systems. Bus operators are able to apply for co-funding to install full or partial barriers.

These measures are long overdue. Bus drivers certainly are vulnerable. They are usually alone and interacting with a range of people. An ongoing commitment – and most importantly, action – is urgently needed to improve their safety.