Queensland Transport Minister Scott Emerson says he is 'shocked' that up to half of students on some routes have been refusing to pay fares, and have been using aliases such as Donald Duck.
Emerson says the government has had to introduce new Safe Travel of School Students guidelines to ensure students who repeatedly evade fares or behave poorly are dealt with seriously.
“There is now a clear distinction between those students who unintentionally have an insufficient bus fare or do not fully understand the public transport network and those who just abuse the system," Emerson says.
Under the new guidelines penalties will range from warnings to permanent transport bans.
“They will provide clarity for the bus industry, outlining the rights and responsibilities of students, teachers and drivers,” Emerson says.
Emerson says the new guidelines were recommended by the Bus Safety Committee.
He says the guidelines were developed in consultation with education and transport organisations, including the Department of Education, TransLink, Queensland Bus Industry Council (QBIC), Brisbane Transport, the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), and Transport Workers’ Union (TWU).
But the Queensland TWU, which quit the bus safety committee last week, has criticized the new guidelines.
TWU State Secretary Peter Biagini says the idea is good on paper, but in practise will mean more work, more resources, more delays, and more conflicts and assaults for drivers.
“This government has created legislation telling drivers to leave children on the side of the road,” Biagini says.
“If this government understood the no child policy they would not introduce this flawed policy, they would instead be consistent and standardise all school travel across the state by either making it free or making everyone pay.”
The guidelines will be rolled out to bus operators and drivers in coming months.
The new guidelines have been broken into four categories:
• Unacceptable behaviour. This includes irritating, unpleasant or offensive behaviour, such as offensive language or fare evasion. Under the new guidelines penalties for this behaviour include warnings, and five-day bus bans for repeat offenders.
• Dangerous behaviour. This can include physical danger to individuals, such as harassing and bullying other passengers, verbally threatening the driver, pushing and shoving when boarding and exiting the bus, and spitting or smoking. Penalties for this behaviour can include the refusal of transport for up to 10 school days.
• Dangerous and destructive behaviour. This can include behaviour that is ‘very dangerous’ to individuals or ‘very destructive’. This includes fighting, damaging bus property or throwing objects that have the potential to cause harm or damage. Students in this category can be banned from transport for up to 10 school weeks.
• Life-threatening behaviour. This includes highly dangerous behaviour, such as physically attacking the driver or other passengers, or threatening physical harm with a dangerous weapon. This behaviour can result in the permanent refusal of travel privileges.
The TWU has demanded more details about the penalties.
Click this link to read the orginal article on Australasian Bus & Coach.