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Driven to Distraction – tackling safety on London’s buses

In 2015 and 2016 - 25 people were killed on, or by, buses.

Over two thirds of those killed were pedestrians.[1]

Nearly 12,000 others were injured on-board or in incidents with buses during this period:

5,700 in 2015 and 6,100 in 2016.[2]

The London Assembly Transport Committee report ‘Driven to Distraction’,  examines the reasons for the number of bus incidents in London.  It 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
  • Rest and toilet facilities are poor or non-existent
  • The job involves frequent distractions from the control centre and from passengers

In addition to various driver safety issues, the Committee found that London has a relatively high number of collisions involving buses.[3]

The contracts Transport for London (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 bus operators.

Figures showing a decline in people killed or seriously injured by buses may be overstated.

The report recommends that TfL:

  • Sets safety targets for bus operators as soon as possible.
  • Revises its senior staff bonus scheme to introduce a direct link between bus safety and performance-related payments.
  • Improves the data it uses for bus safety analysis and trend reporting.
  • Reduces the number of distractions and difficulties facing drivers.
  • Delivers driver safety training, in the same way it delivers customer service training.
  • Reviews bus maintenance practices in garages.

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM, Deputy Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee said;

“The Mayor of London incentivises bus operators to meet punctuality targets, but not to reduce collisions and injuries. It’s an outrage and something the son of a bus driver should recognise and rectify immediately.

Driving on London’s roads requires intense concentration. Especially when manoeuvring a 12 tonne vehicle around pedestrians, buggies, cyclists and more - with up to 87 passengers on board and numerous distractions.

Bus drivers exist in a pressure cooker situation, with competition for road space and a focus on making buses run on time, which has created a stressful and tiring working culture for drivers.

TfL needs to review the way it awards contracts to bus operators and ensure it puts safety as a priority, instead of punctuality.