London has a relatively high level of collisions involving buses compared with other cities, with the stress associated with meeting tough timetables cited as a key factor.
A new report states stress, fatigue and distractions – including from drivers’ own control centres – may be contributing to high numbers of incidents in the capital.
The report, Driven to Distraction, by the London Assembly Transport Committee, found that a total of 25 people were killed on, or by, buses in 2015 and 2016 in London and nearly 12,000 others were injured on-board or in incidents with buses during the same period. Over two thirds of those killed were pedestrians.
Of the 15 world cities measured by the International Bus Benchmarking Group (IBBG), London was one of only five not to have improved since 2007, and was ranked fifth-worst for safety in 2014.
The report says figures showing a decline in people killed or seriously injured by buses may be overstated and have been contradicted by hospital data.
It found that the contracts Transports for London (TfL) has with bus operators incentivise operators to meet punctuality – but not safety – targets and that key issues like driving skills and incident investigations are often left in the hands of operators.
Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM, deputy chair of the 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.’
The report said high levels of stress are reported among drivers, ‘caused by long shifts, inadequate breaks and irregular shift patterns’ and that fatigued bus drivers ‘may have more incidents than properly rested ones’.
It added that rest and toilet facilities are ‘poor or non-existent’, while driving a bus involves ‘frequent distractions from the control centre and from passengers’.
The report recommends that TfL:
- sets safety targets for bus operators as soon as possible
- 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