SHELLHARBOUR members of the Transport Workers’ Union of NSW are steering a campaign for better and safer conditions for bus drivers, passengers and road users.
The TWU have been driving the campaign Better Buses: I’m on Board which last week secured the support of Shellharbour MP Anna Watson.
Unrealistic timetables set out by the state government are forcing drivers to make dangerous decisions on roads because of the fear of significant fines said TWU Illawarra Sub Branch Secretary Nick McIntosh.
“if you (bus company’s) don’t meet the timetable by 95 per cent the driver for the bus company are fined (amounts above $1000) and the obvious flow on effects is that drivers are under pressure to meet these timetables.”
Illawarra bus driver David Cole said drivers were “daily” forced to push the limits on safety.
“Because the NSW Government and operators expect us to keep to impossible timetables that show no understanding about the reality out there on the road,” Mr Cole said.
“We want to provide a safe and reliable service for everyone, especially for our school kids and the elderly, but right now we’re being cornered into an impossible situation.”
Mr McIntosh said the problems needed to be addressed by the Minister for Transport, Andrew Constance, who sets the industry rules and awards the contracts.
“It’s his excessive demands that are forcing drivers to rush, skip breaks and drive unsafely, endangering the safety of our drivers and community,” Mr McIntosh said.
“We’re calling on the state government to mandate that they pass on fair and reasonable wage rises, set realistic timetables and a lot of things we take for granted like proper lunch breaks, consult with drivers and bus company’s about timetables.
“We want to have an efficient system but not at the expense of the safety of our drivers, passengers and other road users.
“That’s why we’re calling on minister Constance to sign up to a single set of enforceable industry standards.”
A spokesperson for minister Constance said the NSW government wanted “the safe and efficient operation of public transport services to be an absolute priority”.
The spokesman said the outer Sydney metropolitan bus service contract operators, including those in the Illawarra, were closely monitored by Transport for NSW through “robust” reporting and governance arrangements.
“Operators must meet their contractual obligations by way of delivering safe, efficient and effective public transport,” he said.
The spokesperson also noted a survey of 34,000 customers showed that “bus customer satisfaction is increasing”.
“Last year’s customer satisfaction index reported that customers were experiencing improved levels of service over the last year on buses,” the spokesperson said.
“The Customer Satisfaction Index surveys customers on public transport issues including timeliness, safety and security, ticketing, comfort, accessibility, cleanliness and customer service.”
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