Posted by: Gregory | March 30, 2015

Bus safety and incident reporting

The bus network in Wellington is a multi-headed beast. On the streets of Wellington, you’ll see the yellow (normally, advertising wraps can throw you off) buses of Go Wellington, the purple of Valley Flyer (and Runcimans), and the green of Mana/NewlandsMetlink is meant to be the public face of the system, but the gap between the head and the hands is extensive.

This situation leads to multiple points of contact for customer service. The bus drivers get much more contact with the passenger than anyone else in the system and it’s the drivers’ behaviour that largely determines the quality of service. When there’s a complaint about the driver, the next point of call is Metlink. From my observations, most people don’t bother calling. Most people grumble a little bit and store up the frustration, which can lead to finding alternative travel arrangements. So when it comes to incident reporting, we can only assume that there’s more hidden behind the veil of inactivity.

That’s why this story from DomPost caught my eye.

Police are seeking a tougher fine for a Wellington bus company after it emerged 144 passengers complained about being trapped in bus doors.

The High Court at Wellington has heard an appeal of the sentence handed to the operator of Go Wellington buses in November, after eight passengers got stuck in doors between May and August 2013.

Wellington City Transport, a wholly owned subsidiary of NZ Bus which operates Go Wellington, was fined $22,000 by Wellington District Court Judge Bruce Davidson at the time and ordered to pay $500 of emotional harm reparation to each of the seven identified victims.

The incident reporting system that Greater Wellington and Metlink run contained 144 reported complaints, but the true value would be unknowable. Presumably, the more serious the event, the more likely the victim is likely to report it, but the act of reporting the incident is a hurdle which may put people off. No one likes phone queues.

Workplace safety practices are moving towards internal reporting of all incidents and near-misses, with a mentality of continual improvement and minimisation of blame. Bus operators will be covered by the same health and safety legislation changes as everyone else and will need to build a safety-aware culture from top to bottom, which should flow through to passenger safety and comfort. I’ve seen a few inspectors on buses recently, checking driver information and monitoring performance, but it’s not without friction and there’s an open question about customer service levels when an inspector cancels a bus service already en route.


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