Central Coast bus passengers could soon see front seats cordoned off and stand only zones pushed back, if the Transport Workers’ Union of NSW (TWU) gets its way.
With the coronavirus situation escalating, the union is calling for a 1.5m buffer zone to be provided around all bus drivers and is working with bus operators on implementing the measure.
TWU State Secretary, Richard Olsen, said no real plan had yet been produced by the State Government for the safety of bus drivers and their passengers.
“The TWU is now responding to recommendations by health regulators to calls for social distancing,” he said.
“We are calling on the Government to properly take on their safety responsibilities for the private and public bus networks around the state for the further protection of bus drivers in their workplace.”
Olsen said the union wanted to see a 1.5m exclusion or buffer zone established around the driver of any bus through the blocking off of the first row of passenger seats in buses, and a push back of the standing zone line in the aisle towards the rear of the first row of seats.
“The above measures, (as well as) our previously reported cash handling ban, must be implemented in both the private and public bus networks around the State, and Transport for NSW must consult with operators and bus drivers on how to make this happen,” he said.
“Safety measures must be on all buses and coaches, not just buses operating under Transport for NSW contracts.
“The TWU and our members see that rear door loading, on buses fitted with front and rear doors, is an incredibly dangerous option for the safety of passengers.
“The loading of buses by the rear door should only occur in specific sites and with full supervision at the entry point by a marshall or guide provided by Transport for NSW.
“Bus drivers are a public facing and integral part of our public transport system.
“This action protects both the drivers in their workplace and the travelling public.
“It is critical that the Government and employers fulfil their duties of care under the Work Health and Safety Act to make sure transport workers are safe in their workplace.”
While neither Busways nor Red Bus Services would confirm the measures would be introduced on the Coast, both companies report escalated safety procedures.
A spokesperson for Red Bus Services said the company was “following instructions from Transport for NSW”.
The company’s website outlines a range of directives saying people should not board a bus if: they have been diagnosed with Covid-19; have come into contact with anyone affected by Covid-19; have travelled overseas in the past 14 days or come into contact with anyone who has; or display cold symptoms including cough, sore throat, low grade fever, nasal congestion, runny nose and sneezing.
In addition to regular cleaning, the company is also regularly disinfecting air conditioner filters, wiping down handrails with disinfectant and mopping bus floors.
A spokesperson from Busways’ Safety and Operations teams said Busways takes the safety of drivers and passengers very seriously and is undertaking a range of protective measures in response to the coronavirus to keep drivers and passengers as safe as possible.
“In particular we are implementing measures to encourage passengers to respect our drivers’ 1.5m social distancing and encouraging the public to keep a safe distance from each other,” the spokesperson said.
“We are also calling on all Central Coast customers to be prepared to pay their bus fare via contactless payment, using either an Opal card or their credit/debit card, to reduce direct contact via cash handling.
“Our depots are taking extreme care in maintaining our high standard of hygiene and cleanliness on our buses, with additional regular disinfectant cleaning of our bus fleet and special attention to touchpoints like door handles, railings, seat frames and hand hold areas.
“Busways is asking for patience, kindness and cooperation from our Central Coast passengers as we work together to create a healthy travel environment on our buses during this time.”
The company said it was implementing measures encouraging passengers to be mindful of safe social distancing from bus drivers and refrain from speaking to drivers at close range, including onboard notices and communications.
Drivers are also being provided with hand sanitiser.
Transport for NSW is urging commuters to plan ahead and consider travelling outside peak hours where possible.
Minister for Transport, Andrew Constance, said that while staff have boosted maintenance and cleaning efforts on the network, customers need to also take extra precautions.
“First and foremost we ask you to please stay home and avoid travel altogether if you are unwell,” he said.
“Sick people in close proximity to others is causing the global spread of the virus, so travelling outside of crowded peak hours can help reduce the chances of transmission.”
He said Transport for NSW was working closely with NSW Health and other Government agencies, as well as external operators statewide to ensure the safety of customers.
“Practicing good hand hygiene is crucial for staff and customers, particularly after coming in contact with handles, rails, buttons and windows, which people need to use,” he said.
Media release, Mar 17
Transport Workers Union
Red Bus Services website
Media statements, March 18
Red Bus Services and Busways
Transport for NSW website