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Arriva locks bendy bus rear doors

The disabled rear doors on an Arriva bendy bus. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The disabled rear doors on an Arriva bendy bus. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Arriva has disabled the rear doors on several bendy buses in what it says is an attempt to discourage passengers from riding without a ticket.

“It was becoming increasingly regular for passengers to get on the bus from the rear door when the bus stops at certain bus-stops,” a company spokesman said.

Ticket cheats caused other passengers “discomfort” and “confusion”, they added.

However, several drivers told The Times that Arriva had closed off rear doors until it fixed rear door cameras.

The bus company disabled rear doors four days after this newspaper highlighted safety concerns about missing safety features, including rear door cameras, on bendy buses.

And despite five separate drivers telling The Times that dysfunctional cameras were to blame for deactivated rear doors, Arriva vehemently denied any link between the two.

“Arriva stands by what it said,” a spokesman said. “There is no ulterior motive other than... protection of revenue.”

The company did not explain why it had opted to block off rear doors rather than increase ticket inspectors or simply fine passengers caught without a valid ticket, instead saying the measure was deemed to be “the least disruptive to our passengers’ comfort and to the service”.

The Times spoke to bendy bus drivers at Valletta’s Triton fountain. All declined to be named.

“It’s because of the door cameras. They’ve disabled the doors until they’re fixed,” one driver said.

Another driver showed The Times how the rear door button in his driving cabin had been deactivated.

“People talk about bendy buses being too big for Maltese roads. But the real problem we have with them is maintenance,” he went on to say.

Did rear doors open on buses with working cameras? “It’s been so long since I drove a bus with cameras that worked, I can’t say,” he quipped.

A third driver also said door cameras were to blame. “The rear doors will only be reactivated once the rear door cameras are fixed,” he said. “To be fair to the company, they’ve already started fixing the cameras on some buses.”

All the drivers who spoke with The Times said Arriva management had not explained the decision to deactivate rear doors to them. “We’re the last to be told about these things,” one driver complained, “but it’s common knowledge that it’s because of the cameras. It’s true that you get people using the back doors to avoid buying a ticket, but it’s not like they can’t use the middle doors now.”

Transport Malta confirmed that Arriva had consulted it before disabling rear doors, and that the company’s decision stemmed from concerns over ticketing control.

A spokesman for the transport regulator said that, while it was not keen on the measure, “the bus operator assured us this will not have an impact on the service delivery”.

Arriva said the decision to deactivate rear doors “does not come with a deadline” and would remain in place for as long as was necessary. But bus drivers were clear they would not tolerate the situation indefinitely.

“If the rear doors aren’t working by summer, I’m out,” one driver said. “Imagine having a bus that size jammed with passengers in that heat, without a rear door. It would be hell.”

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