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Perth Bus Safety Checks Ended Two Weeks Before Esplanade Busport Blaze

Release date: 19/07/2015

Western Australia, by Kate Campbell, 19 July 2015

JUST two weeks before Tuesday’s gas-powered bus explosion, the Public Transport Authority ordered a halt to regular safety inspections at a quarter of its gas vehicle depots.

The PTA has admitted it stopped the twice-weekly checks, introduced after a spate of Transperth gas bus fires in 2012 and 2013, at two of its eight gas bus depots about two weeks ago. Following an anonymous tip-off, The Sunday Times went to the PTA which confirmed the “directive” involving the Claisebrook and Bayswater depots.

That order was made because the buses at those depots had been fully upgraded, PTA spokesman David Hynes said, as part of staged modifications to the OC500 gas buses – agreed to under a confidential settlement with Mercedes and Volgren last August.

Mr Hynes said the bus that was gutted on Tuesday at the Esplanade Busport – which had been completely modified – was still being checked twice a week because it came from one of the six other depots.

The blaze has been blamed on a coolant leak. After Tuesday’s bus inferno, which has reignited safety fears from drivers and passengers, the PTA immediately reversed its decision.

“The twice-weekly inspections have now resumed at both Bayswater and Claisebrook,” Mr Hynes said.

He said maintenance audits were also carried out twice a year at all 21 depots while each bus “goes over the pits” in annual Transport Department inspections.

Transport Workers’ Union organiser Phil Ogden said he was not aware of last fortnight’s change to the inspection regime.

“Don’t stop checking them. You need to keep checking them all the time. We’ve had 16 bus fires in the past eight years – that’s on average two a year, it’s way too many,” he said.

“I’m hearing reports from drivers that people are scared to be up the back of the bus, they want to be around near the door so they’ve got a quick exit, just in case.”

Angry bus drivers will stop work on Wednesday at 11.30am to attend a union meeting over the safety fears.

The blaze has been blamed on a coolant leak. After Tuesday’s bus inferno, which has reignited safety fears from drivers and passengers, the PTA immediately reversed its decision.

“The twice-weekly inspections have now resumed at both Bayswater and Claisebrook,” Mr Hynes said.

He said maintenance audits were also carried out twice a year at all 21 depots while each bus “goes over the pits” in annual Transport Department inspections.

Transport Workers’ Union organiser Phil Ogden said he was not aware of last fortnight’s change to the inspection regime.

“Don’t stop checking them. You need to keep checking them all the time. We’ve had 16 bus fires in the past eight years – that’s on average two a year, it’s way too many,” he said.

“I’m hearing reports from drivers that people are scared to be up the back of the bus, they want to be around near the door so they’ve got a quick exit, just in case.”

Angry bus drivers will stop work on Wednesday at 11.30am to attend a union meeting over the safety fears.


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