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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 December 2018

Fatal bus crash - an avoidable tragedy

photo Ad Meskens/CC

photo Ad Meskens/CC   (Click to enlarge)

'Tom Woodcock', Birmingham Central Socialist Party

As a former bus driver I was appalled by the news story about Kailash Chander, the Stagecoach bus driver, whose dangerous driving resulted in the death of two people.

In October 2015, the 77 year old mistook the brake for the accelerator pedal and mounted the kerb outside Sainsbury's in Coventry city centre.

He couldn't stand trial due to his dementia and was handed a two-year supervision order by the court last week. What does this say about Tory benefit cuts and poverty pensions, that an old and disabled man is driving a bus?

It sickens me to learn that Chander had been working 75-hour weeks, and had been the subject of 24 complaint letters regarding his driving standards.

A plain-clothes bus inspector reported Chander's poor driving, but despite this, he continued to be employed. Stagecoach put profit before safety.

The 2.3 million fine handed to the bus company will not make any difference to the families of 76-year-old pedestrian Dora Hancox or little Rowan Fitzgerald, aged seven. Rowan was travelling back from a football match with his grandad on the bus.

Both were killed as a result of unfit-driver Chander being put to work by Stagecoach to cover staff shortages. The fine will barely dent Stagecoach's 123m profits from their local bus operations.

Stagecoach bosses have been let off the hook. They should have been jailed for corporate manslaughter.

It was they who ignored the dangers and placed an unsafe driver behind the wheel of one of their buses.

As gross an example as this is, I have been convinced for many years that it would only be a matter of time before the long-hours culture of the bus industry led to a horrific incident.

Readers may be surprised to learn that bus drivers on local routes can work up to 16 hours a day, are entitled to as little as eight-and-a-half-hours rest between shifts, and work up to 19 days without a day off.

My union for transport workers, RMT, has called for bus-driving hours to be brought in-line with slightly more stringent EU hours which are used for coach and lorry drivers. This has been resisted by the employers, citing the impact on their fat profits.

Overworked

During my 10 years on the buses in London and the West Midlands, many drivers worked all of their rest days and booked as much overtime as possible to make up for the low wages.

Supervisors were always asking if you would do an extra trip for them or come in on your day off to cover shifts.

Split shifts are the norm and together with highly restricted access to toilet facilities and frequent abuse from members of the public, bus driving really is a long-hours and unhealthy occupation.

Bus drivers are exempt from many workplace health and safety regulations that the law affords to most other workers.

Bus industry standards need to be urgently improved. Driving hours should be reduced to a maximum of 35 hours a week, wages must be sharply uplifted to a liveable level, and shifts must be compiled and rostered with the safety and wellbeing of drivers in mind. Train driving is seen as an attractive job, why can't bus driving be?

Renationalising the bus service without compensation to the corporate parasites who have been sucking the industry dry for 30 years will be the first and most important step towards this goal.

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In The Socialist 5 December 2018:


What we think

Corbyn and trade union movement urgently need to fight for a general election to kick out the Tories


International socialist news and analysis

France: mass demonstrations force president to back down

Midwives go on strike in New Zealand


Socialist Party feature

The growth of artificial intelligence technology


Workplace news and analysis

PCS AGS election: Where now after the PCS Left Unity conference?

Blairite Birmingham steps up union-busting and two workforces plan strikes

Victory! Grimethorpe dinner ladies' strike beats job cuts

Victory for left in RMT union president election

WHSmith: hands off our Post Offices!

Bradford College joins #FEfightback strike for decent pay

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party news and analysis

Austerity: not one more day - Tories out now

Health bosses move goalposts on A&E waiting times: more funds for our NHS now!

Northamptonshire council crisis continues

Arrogant landlords can be beaten

Fatal bus crash - an avoidable tragedy

Racist attack in Huddersfield


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Fight Cardiff Council's school cuts

Join the march through Woking against austerity

Fighting NHS and fire services cuts and closures in Merseyside

Socialist Party argues against fire service cuts at Tyne and Wear consultation

Leeds TUC conference to organise fight against austerity

West Midlands Socialist Party women's meeting: our role in changing society

Socialist Students conference date set


 

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