Arriva suspends driver as crash investigation continues

Arriva refused to say yesterday whether it would compensate the 27 passengers injured in Wednesday’s accident that involved three of its buses.

An Arriva spokesman said the cause of the accident was still unknown and the company was cooperating with the authorities.

The company would be looking to identify any measures that can be put into place to reduce the risk of such accidents reoccurring.

“Our primary consideration remains the condition of any person injured, among them our employees,” the spokesman said.

An Arriva bus full of passengers skidded on the slippery, wet road at around 3pm on Wednesday and slammed into the side of the historic Portes Des Bombes in Floriana.

Another two Arriva buses behind then crashed into each other, with one hitting the centre strip.

Twenty-seven passengers and two drivers were injured, seven of them seriously, although none of the injuries was life-threatening.

On Wednesday the company said there appeared to be diesel mixed with rainwater on the road at the spot where the accident took place.

Questioned about this yesterday, the Arriva spokesman said none of the buses involved in the accident was leaking diesel.

The spokesman also said that, while the driver of the bus that crashed first had been suspended until the result of the investigations, as was standard procedure, Arriva would not discuss his previous disciplinary record with the media.

Arriva pointed out that all three buses involved had been purchased for the new public transport contract: the 12-metre “rigid buses” were 16 months old and registered for use in June of last year.

As the fallout from the accident continued yesterday, the Restoration Directorate confirmed it would be seeking compensation from the “entity responsible” for the damage to Portes Des Bombes.

The bus dislodged stones at the back of the historic gate but none of these were of historic value, according to director Norbert Gatt.

He said an assessment of the cost of repairs was being drawn up and works would start soon.

The damage was “very localised” and not “very extensive”. There were no structural concerns and the damage was reversible, Mr Gatt said.

Built in 1721 by Grand Master Ramon Perellos, the gate was extensively restored in 2002 in a €127,000 project.

In the absence of an official explanation about the cause of the accident, internet users took to and social media sites, with many expressing frus­tration with Arriva drivers and the public transport operator generally.

Some used humour to get their point across, with a number of memes poking fun at the perceived danger of riding on Arriva buses.

Earlier this month, Transport Minister Austin Gatt told Parliament that Arriva buses had been involved in 1,619 traffic accidents since the company began operating on July 3, 2011.

But some sprang to the defence of Arriva drivers, with Joseph Vassallo telling that he was a passenger on a No. 31 bus heading in the opposite direction when the accident happened.

“Our driver was being extremely cautious because of the dangerous, slippery road conditions,” he said.

According to Mr Vassallo, the driver of his bus lost traction in the front wheels and then the rear wheels as the vehicle came to the bend where the old Gasan showroom used to be. But he twice countered the skid.

“Being an experienced driver, I understood what the driver was dealing with and I have to say that he handled it very professionally,” Mr Vassallo said.

“Ours was an Arriva driver too and he handled our predicament faultlessly.”

Wednesday’s crash was the second public relations disaster for Arriva this month, after London mayor Boris Johnson boasted at the UK Conservative Party conference that the bendy-buses he removed from London’s streets were now “clogging the streets of Malta”.


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