Evading the fare

A 'hard core' group of school students and parents continue to exploit a loophole to evade bus fares

Evading the fare
Evading the fare

By David Goeldner | May 28, 2012

QBIC Executive Director David Tape is standing firmly behind the ‘no child left behind’ bus service policy leading up to a bus safety meeting this week with the state’s Transport Minister Scott Emerson.

In the wake of Tape’s meeting earlier this month with the Morecombe Foundation, Minister Emerson says this Friday’s gathering of the Bus Safety Committee will discuss growing concerns that some children and their parents are routinely exploiting the ‘no child left behind’ principle to avoid paying fares.

"I think it would shock most Queenslanders that some children and parents are reportedly exploiting a principle, put in place following the disappearance of Daniel Morcombe, for financial gain," Emerson says.

"When children who flatly refuse to pay a fare are telling drivers that their name is Donald Duck then something is terribly wrong," he says.

Bus drivers in southern Queensland have complained of the numerous cases of school students boarding buses and not paying the fare.

Drivers claim students are citing the case of Daniel Morecombe who disappeared while waiting for a bus on the Sunshine Coast in 2003, which led to the ‘no child left behind’ policy.

According to anecdotal evidence submitted to the Queensland Department of Transport, the most common name used by students who don’t pay the fare is ‘Donald Duck’.

A departmental statement claims many children say flippantly to drivers ‘you have to let me on because of no child left behind’ and walk past the driver and sit down.

Emerson says he agrees with the 'no child left behind' principle, however to stop the ‘rorting’ the system needs improved management.

"I'm not going to ignore the challenges that come with it," he says.

"I've asked that unions, operators and government agencies look seriously at this issue which has been of concern for more than a year.

"I accept there may not be a simple solution but it needs to be tackled rather than ignored."

Emerson says the Bus Safety Committee meeting would also discuss the fact that more than 500 complaints a year are made by parents and guardians in relation to children being left at bus stops, as well as complaints by operators and drivers about passenger behaviour.

A representative from each of the Transport Workers' Union, Rail Tram and Bus Union, Queensland Bus Industry Council, TransLink, Brisbane City Council, and the Department of Transport and Main Roads will discuss bus safety issues at the meeting.

Earlier this month, QBIC’s David Tape met with Bruce and Denise Morcombe from the Daniel Morcombe Foundation to discuss No Child Left Behind.

Tape says it was a meeting that should have happened some time ago.

"I am pleased that we met to discuss this extremely important issue, our discussions were open and honest, establishing common ground from which we can work together in an attempt to combat this issue," Tape says.

"We agreed that this is an issue that requires a whole of community approach, one that requires key stakeholders at the table focussing on reducing the incidence of a child being left behind at a bus stop," he says.

"This is a complex issue with multiple variables, all of which need clear identification and transparent investigation."

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