Thursday, 22 Oct 2020

London buses 'overcrowded' as drivers 'forced to stop even when full'

London bus drivers claim bosses are ‘forcing’ them to break coronavirus capacity limits by allowing passengers to cram on.

Trade Union Unite claim ‘overcrowding’ is happening across the capital because operators are instructing drivers to let people on at every stop, even when buses are full.

Double deckers are supposed to cap passengers at 30 while for single deckers the limit is 11 to 14 to create room for social distancing.

Drivers told The Huffington Post that they risk getting penalised at work if they pass a stop because the bus is full.

‘On any given day, if we drive past bus stops [without stopping] then people can complain to your bosses and you run the risk of getting into trouble,’ said one driver, who wished to remain anonymous.

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‘We are only supposed to be driving at half capacity. Yet, when the bus is at capacity, managers tell us that we still have to stop at every bus stop, attempt to explain to passengers if they can’t board the bus, and if they do then carry on anyway […] while continuing to stop at each bus stop.’

The driver, who works for Abellio, said that passengers often ‘don’t listen’ when they are told the bus is too full and that the responsibility for controlling passenger numbers was ‘stressful’.

‘I just want to do my job – drive the bus – and go home. I don’t get paid enough for this,’ they said.

Drivers claimed their complaints to managers have fallen on deaf ears. One who works for bus company Go-Ahead compared the problem to the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for bus drivers at the start of the pandemic.

‘It is clear that these corporate companies don’t care about us,’ they said.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he has contacted Transport for London (TFL), which oversees the companies responsible, to tell it to lay down the law.

Director of buses at TfL Claire Mann said the transport company meets regulalry with bus operators to remind them of capacity rules ‘although we had no specific reports of these rules being broken’.

However, Unite regional officer John Murphy said bus operators and TfL need to develop an enforcement mechanism ‘to ensure that capacity limits and mask wearing are adhered to and passenger safety is not compromised’.

‘It is not the role of drivers to enforce capacity limits,’ he said. ‘Their role is to safely drive the bus.’

In April bus drivers said they feared for their lives working during the peak of the pandemic and that not enough was being done to protect them.

Transport workers complained buses were not being cleaned and that they weren’t given PPE.

 A spokesperson for Go-Ahead London denied that drivers were being encouraged to break the rules. ‘The health, safety and wellbeing of colleagues and passengers remains our top priority,’ they in a statement to HuffPost.

‘The company is in ongoing, and regular, dialogue with its workforce on a host of coronavirus issues, including TfL guidance on passenger loadings.’

Abellio has been contacted for comment.

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