Arriva ‘takes safety extremely seriously’
Arriva yesterday “categorically” denied that bendy buses lacked working safety features, slamming claims that locks preventing vehicles from moving with doors opened were “almost always” off.
Commercial director Fabien Courtellemont was reacting to an item that appeared on The Times on Thursday in which two former bendy bus drivers described the situation as a “tragedy waiting to happen”.
Mr Courtellemont said all drivers were trained to use the locking feature properly and action was taken to prevent “fraudulent” use, with “strong disciplinary action” against staff who used it improperly.
“All Arriva Malta buses, included articulated buses, are equipped with safety features beyond the specifications of the contract between Transport Malta and Arriva Malta and in line with European and international standards,” he said.
“These features include, among others, contact sensors that prevent doors from closing on a passenger but instead reopen automatically and a system preventing buses from moving with open doors.”
Arriva also denied it ignored the warnings of retired bus driver and instructor Gary Simmonds. “Mr Simmonds has talked personally with Mr Courtellemont but stated he will not talk with ‘persons who can’t drive bendies’ and refused to give further information. He was also contacted by Arriva’s health and safety officer but with no further success,” Arriva said.
Insisting it had an open door policy that was “perhaps more open than that of any other Maltese company”, Arriva pointed out that Mr Simmonds was a former driver, not a qualified engineer capable of making some of the claims he made in The Times.
“He is not or never has been employed by Arriva Malta and, as such, his comments should be considered unfounded and disregarded as appropriate. However, we remain open to trying again to meet with him, despite our previous offers being refused.”
Arriva also denied that employees who refused to drive a bus three times would get a warning. “This statement is absolutely wrong. No driver would ever receive a warning for refusing to drive a bus that was deemed unfit for service by one of our technical experts.”
Also wrong was the statement that only drivers were fined by wardens, it said.
“Arriva, as a company, can also be fined by the wardens. Arriva drivers, like all other motorists on the road, are subject to Maltese law and are fined by wardens or authorities for infringements.
“They are held responsible for infringements if, and only if, the infringement is directly attributable to their behaviour. Likewise, Arriva as a company and a Maltese business is equally subject to local laws and regulations and bears its responsibilities as the case may be.”
Arriva said it took safety “extremely seriously” and insisted that all its employees should uphold safety with the same level of seriousness.
“Indeed, Arriva has and will take all necessary actions, including disciplinary actions at all levels, to ensure the safety of passengers, employees and the public in general.”
Consumers’ Association warning
The health and safety issues flagged in The Times are of “major concern”, according to the Consumers’ Association, which said it too had received similar complaints about buses.
“We have reports that are not limited to bendy buses but concern other buses being used. We are aware of instances where passenger seats are not fixed properly.”
The problem, according to the Consumers’ Association, is that consumers believe it is useless to report complaints because they get the impression that the authorities are not interested in resolving them.
“It is a situation of learned helplessness,” a spokesman said, urging the authorities to do their job properly.
Transport Malta should ensure that any vehicles used were fit and safe. If not, they should be immediately removed from the road until the situation was rectified, it said.
The association said that one should look into whether records were kept on the maintenance of each bus used and whether such documents were made available to the authority and ensured its authenticity.
It added that the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority should be “proactive” when ensuring standards.