*File photo by Kageaki Smith
*File photo by Kageaki Smith
A third of the island’s buses are off the road, with potentially unroadworthy vehicles being kept in service to make up the shortage, it is claimed.

Bus drivers spoke to the Bermuda Sun yesterday on condition of anonymity, saying they are concerned about the safety of their passengers.

A backlog of repairs has been blamed on cuts in PTB (Public Transportation Board) mechanics’ hours.

One driver said: “There are buses out there that shouldn’t be on the road.

“… There are anything from 35 to 45 buses out of service and that seems to be a daily situation. It’s about a third of the fleet. In most cases it’s a mechanical problem.

“The mechanics are overwhelmed,” we were told. “They’ve had cutbacks in overtime since the New Year. Many of us feel the garage should be open 24-hours, in order for them to keep on top of the buses.”

One driver said: “I’ve heard mechanics say there are several buses that shouldn’t be on the road, but they are.

“We (operators) are all concerned about passenger safety.”

We asked PTB to comment on the claims yesterday but did not receive an official response by the time we went to press last night.

Derek Trott, PTB operations manager, said: “I’m not going to comment. I don’t know in reference to what they’re referring.”

The claims come just two weeks after operators went on strike, citing concerns over health and safety and “inconsistencies” in disciplinary decisions.

A driver we spoke to claimed that since the strike, management have not yet met with staff to discuss their concerns.

The operator said: “If PTB cared they would have listened to us a long time ago. The Ministry [of Transport] will have to have a meeting with the PTB managers and directors. They will all have to meet with us and are going to have to listen to us. That’s the only way.

“Most bus operators try to give the public 100 per cent, but we can’t do that if management are only giving 40 per cent.”

Drivers also claimed members of the public were openly fare-dodging by using their children’s bus passes.

One told us: “We’ve been told to accept children on the bus even if they don’t have their pass, but what’s happening is, the children give their pass to their parents and others.

Fare-dodgers

“College students must show their college ID with their pass, but PTB tells us to still let them on without it, because they probably haven’t received the ID yet.

“So, the word is out — that if you don’t have your college ID the bus driver will still accept you.

“We see this every day. We see people travelling all over the island with these passes. But if you question them it then gets confrontational. PTB don’t have our back on this issue.”

The driver claimed expatriate workers’ children were also giving their free passes to friends.

“You even see tourists using them. So now PTB has got us as immigration officers. This is why Government is losing money. On a full bus of 38 you probably only get about 10 people who have actually paid to get on.”

The fare-dodgers ranged from teenagers to “people in their 50s”.

The driver also expressed concerns for the safety of operators and passengers from gang violence.

“It’s only a matter of time before there’s going to be a shoot-out on the bus. We have guys who get on the bus who we know are carrying weapons.

“We’ve also had drivers who’ve been assaulted. This issue has yet to be addressed.”

The operator estimated up to 20 colleagues — a seventh of the workforce — were assaulted each year.

“Management needs to take a closer look at this situation before it escalates.”

We did not receive a response from Government on the drivers’ claims before going to press last night.

The Bermuda Industrial Union, which represents up to 140 operators, declined to comment yesterday.