‘Set safety targets’ says report

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‘Set safety targets’ says report

A series of recommendations intended to make London’s buses safer have been outlined in a report by the London Assembly Transport Committee. Entitled “Driven to Distraction”, it said that in 2015 and 2016, 25 people were killed on, or by, buses. Over two thirds of those killed were pedestrians. Nearly 12,000 others were injured onboard or in incidents with buses during this period: 5,700 in 2015 and 6,100 in 2016. The report looked at reasons behind these incidents and found that high levels of stress are reported amongst bus drivers, caused by long shifts, inadequate breaks and irregular shift patterns. Fatigued bus drivers may have more incidents than properly rested ones, it discovered. Other reasons include rest and toilet facilities being poor or non-existent, as well as the job involving frequent distractions from the control centre and from passengers.

In addition to various driver safety issues, the Committee found that London has what it described as a relatively high number of collisions involving buses. The contracts TfL has with bus operators incentivise them to meet punctuality targets, but not safety targets. Key aspects of safety, like driving skills and incident investigations, are often left in the hands of the operators. Figures showing a decline in people killed or seriously injured by buses may be overstated, it claims.

The report recommends that TfL sets safety targets for bus operators as soon as possible, as well as revising its senior staff bonus scheme to introduce a direct link between bus safety and performance-related payments. It suggests TfL improves the data it uses for bus safety analysis and trend reporting, as well as reduce the number of distractions and difficulties facing drivers. Further suggestions include delivering driver safety training, in the same way it delivers customer service training, and reviewing bus maintenance practices in garages.

Visit https://goo.gl/nyFbTY to see the “Driven to Distraction” report.

  • avlowe

    Whatever happeneed to the suite of video-backed modules thet London Buses produced around 10 years ago to deliver the BTEC training in a TfL approved package, that every contractor had to deliver for every driver, making the TfL services compliant for the approaching CPC requirement.

    The Cyclist-Bus Driver element “Big Bus Little Bike” worked with the London and UK Cycling organisations, to deliver the final product. From the rumblings coming back that pressed for this report, this package is no longer being delivered, in original or updated form, a major disappointment.

    Preparation for the report involved a group from the cycling side including those with HGV and other professional driving experience, who also tested out as good bus driver candidates on the Willeden simulator.

    Several issues give rise to the concerns and pressures that drove this report. Curiously, unlike National Express, Scottish Citylink, and other operations using contracted in livery vehicles, TfL London Bus Services Ltd does not hold an O Licence, whilst effectively being the principal for the specification and management of a 8000+bus operation, and seems to disconnect itself from the duty of care to operate safe buses and drivers, with robust records of this.

    Ask TfL just how many of the buses operated in its brand of London Buses have failed their annual MOT first time, or collected a PG9 and they refer you to the operator, ask after a CCTV record of an incident (CCTV fitted to every bus as a TfL contract requirement) and people get bounced between TfL and operator – by which time the data has got lost or overwritten. This is not a credible regime for monitoring and managing risk, and identifying the hazards that need to be addressed.

    Many modern systems deliver and have done for decades, one operator was running a TfL contract entirely with buses limited to 29.7+/- 0.3 mph using black box technology on the Euro engine management system and that technology now can be switched in by roadside beacons – used by one Council to cut school bus speeds to 10mph on school grounds and refuse trucks to 15mph on waste processing sites. With 4g and wifi connections CCTV can be downloaded daily for automated review (digital image recognition/tachograph tie-in for red lights passed and overspeed/firece braking events). This same connection can also provide real time views of the bus and passengers, so a driver is no longer ‘alone’ when they have the distraction of unruly passengers on a journey, but a controller is able to arrange the sting of assistance whilst the driver can focus on safe driving.

    Finally the lack of any objective, independent and published reporting for incidents means that so little is learned, and the pattern of the same types of crash repeating with the same results is a massive condemnation of the London Buses risk management regime. There is also lip service to the move to make CIRAS or an equivalent independent risk reporting service available to front line staff – the service is not being promoted at garages, and many still fear the repercussions if they are identified as the source of a CIRAS report, from having made an initial report to the operator on the issue.

    There are 3 key situations which fit a large tranche of the serious and fatal collisions that happen in London. The first is a full lock – generally right – turn into a side road, bus station or depot, hitting the pedestrian, not seen for a variety of reasons for diverted attention (oncoming traffic – the route ahead after the turn etc) and the fact that the view is partly obscured by the clutter of the A pillar, curved glazing, scratched driver security screen etc.

    The second is where the ‘High Street’ is effectively a bus station, but whilst the latter has HSC on the case and has to have a 5 or 10mph speed limit and tight control of bus and pedestrian movements, the HIgh Street has a 30mph speed limit and free for all for all road users to make conflicting moves at will.

    A third applies more to busways, guided and non-guided, and here I’ll use 2 examples. First on the North Greenwich Busway where the original speed limits and half finished zebra crossing from 2008 had all but vanished by 2011 and after earlier fatal and serious collisions in November 2015 a woman was seriously injured, ending up under a bus. No action was taken and 8 weeks later in a completely identical collision (the victim was making the same journey and hit at the same point), the outcome was fatal. Within 2 weeks the orders were being processed to place a 20mph speed limit on the whole busway, complete the abandoned zebra crossings, and put up the correct signs in the correct places. A few months later most of the work had been completed at the crash site, but broken and obscured signs remained elsewhere.

    More spectacular have been the series of guided busway ‘derailments’ with 4 major incidents on the Cambridge busway alone in just 6 years, all involving drivers entering the ‘flares’ at the wrong speed or angle, and the bus being deflected to make a major excursion from the busway, twice blocking the path of oncoming buses, and twice passing through the route used by pedestrians and cyclists – fortunately in every case not colliding with other buses or people. There have been derailmants and damage on the Dunstable and Leigh busways as well, and these largely presaged the Croydon Tram crash with lessons that should have been learned and disseminated, about making speed limit signs clear and visible at the point where braking should commence, and backing up the driver’s locational awareness with an automated warning or speed cap on the vehicle. Yet days after the latest Cambridge crash the warning and speed limit signs on the approach to the crash site remained smothered by trees and bushes, and no sign of any moves to install ‘containment’ to match the Armco barrier, preventing the bus from travelling on to the railway, and bent and marked in that crash as it deflected the bus into the building on the opposite side.

    The rail industry was radically changed when Lord Cullen looked beyond the crash at Ladbroke Grove to the safety culture of the whole industry and we went from an accepted ‘tariff’ of 1 track worker death per month, and at least a bus-load of passengers and staff in coffins or casualty because there were still slam-door trains with no central locking. The results, if transferred to roads would be significant – in 10 years not one rail passenger killed, and when one track worker dies the incident triggers a deep review on how to prevent any repeat event.

    This stretches beyond TfL but the scale & relevance of London Buses operation to the National picture makes it a good place to start

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