THE ‘ROGUE bus service’ being operated by Go North West in the Greater Manchester area is under investigation for serial Covid-19 safety failures and breaches of other vital safety regulations, the Unite union reported yesterday.
Go North West, which is part of the multi-billion pound Go Ahead group, launched its ‘rogue bus service’ rather than seek a negotiated settlement to the dispute with Unite over plans to fire and rehire its bus drivers on vastly inferior terms and conditions.
As a result, over 400 bus drivers have been on all-out (continuous) strike action since 28 February. The drivers began their fourth week of strike action on Sunday 21 March.
Earlier this month, Unite highlighted how Go North West’s ‘rogue bus service’ was operating dangerously overcrowded buses. In response, the company claimed it was a one-off incident.
While taking strike action, Go North West bus drivers have been compiling a detailed dossier on all the safety failings of the ‘rogue bus service’.
The dossier details problems with the sub-contracted buses being operated by B and N Coaches, Connexions Buses, Edwards Coaches, Orion Travel, Red Rose, Selwyns, Swans, The Big Coach Company, The Travellers Choice and Tyrers Coaches.
Unite alleged: ‘The list of “illegal activity” was extensive and included: overcrowding and ignoring reduced capacity rules to prevent Covid-19 transmissions; allowing passengers to stand (often close to the driver); a failure to tape off seats around drivers; an absence of screens to protect drivers from Covid transmission; and a failure to properly seal screens if they were in place.
‘Other non-Covid failures included: many of the coaches were not accessible to disabled people and pose a danger for those with limited mobility; no ability to issue tickets; bicycles in aisleways; and a lack of information that the services are being operated on behalf of Go North West.
‘The dossier was initially sent to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the North West Travel Commissioner.
The DVSA has confirmed: ‘Your concerns have been forwarded to the appropriate Bus Compliance Unit for your area and the appropriate Regional Intelligence Unit for your area for further investigation.’
Unite regional secretary Ritchie James said: ‘The scandal of Go North West’s dangerous “rogue bus service” is finally being exposed.
‘For three weeks, Go North West has been operating its “rogue bus service” without scrutiny, which has risked the health of bus passengers, their families and the general public in Greater Manchester.
‘It is no surprise that Covid-19 rates in Greater Manchester, which were already high, are increasing when buses that have been flouting the transmission rules have been in constant operation in our communities.
‘The DVSA investigation is welcome and will be able to nail Go North West’s lie that the previous incidents of overcrowding were one offs, when the truth is that they are flouting regulations across their “rogue bus service”.’