Trouble in paradise

Another Surfside bus driver was assaulted today, leaving operator Transit Australia Group perplexed

Trouble in paradise
Trouble in paradise

By David Goeldner | February 14, 2012

Transit Australia Group (TAG) Managing Director Wayne Patch is at a loss to work out why there has been an increasing rate of bus driver bashings on the group’s network, with another driver assaulted at about midday today at Miami on the Gold Coast.

The driver incurred facial injuries, is unable to drive and has received medical attention and counselling.

The incident is one of eight physical attacks on TAG drivers across the network in the past month.

Today’s assault on the Surfside Buslines driver of six years driving experience is alleged to have been initiated by a young woman.

"The number of recent assaults on drivers is quite disturbing and I am at a loss to understand why," Patch says.

"And from anecdotal evidence, those charged with assaulting our drivers are not visitors or tourists, they are local people."

Patch doesn’t see TAG’s operation in dealing with or being exposed to security risks from aggressive passengers as being any different than similarly-sized bus operations in southern states.

"The Transport Workers Union has talked about putting safety screens around drivers, and that’s been canvassed before, but it’s not necessarily what the majority of drivers want," he says.

Patch says transport systems – such as in London where there is a flat fare system and no requirement for the driver to interact with passengers – can cope with screens around drivers, but would be problematic on the TAG network.

"If we had a full Go Card system and it was the predominant method of fare payment, it may be easier for the driver to be encapsulated," he says.

"But it’s a great shame if that has to be the result."

Patch says TAG drivers are ‘customer service’ people, canvassing inquiries from tourists using the services on the Gold Coast, Townsville and Cairns.

"The front line work that our drivers do is absolutely vital, but to lock them away like a Melbourne tram driver would make interaction very awkward."

Patch says full time Surfside bus drivers each complete a Certificate 3 in Transport Management which has a course module covering how to deal with aggressive customers.

"And we have a robust security system whereby we have security personnel driving around in cars, and periodically boarding the buses," he says.

"The Queensland Police Service committed recently to board the buses more frequently, but it seems our recent measures have had little impact – it’s quite perplexing."

Patch says there is a workplace health and safety report being prepared about the most recent incident at Miami.

"But this is no longer a company issue," he says.

"This is something the state is highly concerned about, both in the Department of Transport and TransLink."

Patch says the Queensland’s Transport Minister’s Safety Committee has met a few times to discuss bus driver safety.

"I’m sure with whatever Government we have in Queensland at the end of next month this will be high on the agenda of that committee again."

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