Not so sunny Sunbus

A political ‘nasty’ has surfaced on the Sunshine Coast, with Sunbus copping a caning from the TWU – allegedly running defective buses

Not so sunny Sunbus
Not so sunny Sunbus

By David Goeldner | November 23, 2010

Transit Australia Group’s Sunbus operation on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast has been left ‘gobsmacked’ by a Transport Workers Union claim the operator runs defective vehicles.

The alleged defects relate to padding which the TWU claims is required to be fitted to all hard surfaces likely to be struck by the head of a passenger if the bus is involved in a frontal collision.

The union says a failure to correctly install padding on seat tops, handrails and partitions as set out under the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 means a non-compliant vehicle should be immediately pulled from use.

A TWU official claims to have uncovered 12 defective vehicles under this provision of the Act, and may have found more before being stopped by Sunbus management early on Monday morning.

But Sunbus say the clandestine 4.30am TWU operation by a union official had little to do with bus safety, and more to do with shoring up support for long-term TWU State Secretary Hughie Williams leading up to a union election.

Transit Australia Group’s Strategic Planning and Delivery General Manager Megan Harkin says the TWU had issued a misleading statement regarding ‘padding on all hard surfaces inside a bus’.

"It is interesting to note that this issue had not ever been reported to TAG management or Queensland Transport until the eve of the bi-annual TWU executive election," Harkin says.

"Padding is not a local issue, rather an issue for passenger transport vehicles worldwide," she says.

"If the TWU genuinely wanted to address this issue, their strategy would need to be more robust which singled out one depot at 4.30am."

Harkin is in no doubt that the union action is aimed squarely at the political process inside the TWU.

But there is a real and pressing issue on the Sunshine Coast that TAG and Sunbus are working hard to resolve, relating to assaults on drivers by members of the public, says Harkin.

"Now that we run late night services we are coming across people who are aggressive towards drivers," she says.

"We are working closely with TransLink to make sure we are putting as much security out there as possible for drivers – we take that very seriously."

Harkin says Sunbus has CCTV cameras throughout the fleet and negotiations are in progress with TransLink to increase the number of cameras.

"Passenger security and safety is the number one priority for our board of directors, and we are very serious about safety for everyone in the organisation."

As for the alleged defective vehicles, Harkin finds it incredulous that such a claim could be made based on an aspect of vehicle design not raised until now.

Harkin says Sunbus had sent 178 vehicles for Queensland Transport compliance testing since the start of 2010 with a 100 percent pass rate.

Sunbus also maintains a relatively young fleet, with an average age of four years.

"Hughie Williams is suggesting any flat surface on a bus needs to be covered with padding, so we are seeking clarification on the issue with Queensland Transport," says Harkin.

"Obviously it’s something QT is not concerned about because our vehicles keep passing compliance tests with flying colours."

Harkin believes the only likely outcome is some damage to Sunbus’ reputation with ‘unfair’ accusations of running defective buses.

"The TWU is just playing dirty," she says.

"It’s not fair on our drivers or our organisation – our vehicles are perfect."

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to receive the ABC e-newsletter, digital magazine and other offers we choose to share with you straight to your inbox

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook