By Ruth McCosker
Brisbane City Council’s bus fleet started with just 11 buses in 1925.
Brisbane City Council’s bus fleet currently has more than 1200 buses.
All of Brisbane’s buses are airconditioned.
Bus drivers were ordered to turn off airconditioning between routes as the temperature soared in Brisbane at the weekend.
The State Government Transport Operations Regulation states that if the Bureau of Meteorology forecast maximum temperatures of at least 28 degrees, drivers must turn on the airconditioning in the buses.
A Bureau of Meteorology spokesman confirmed that Brisbane’s maximum temperature reached 31.5 degrees on Saturday and 32.5 degrees on Sunday, after forecasts of 31 degrees for Saturday and 33 degrees for Sunday.
The weekend heat prompted bus drivers to ignore signs at terminuses ordering them to switch off their engines after 30 seconds as they wanted to keep the airconditioning running.
But managers swooped and told them to cut their engines.
It was understood drivers typically spent up to 15 minutes at the open-air terminuses while waiting to start their routes.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union assistant state secretary Tom Brown said the issue had been going on since last October and had only been brought to light due to the recent extreme heat.
“The temperature in the bus goes through the roof after 10 or 15 minutes and then the airconditioners can’t draw the temperature back down to an optimum level,” he said.
“So the bus is driving around for the next few hours with the airconditioner pushing warm air around and it’s making drivers sick.”
Brisbane City Council shadow transport spokesman Jared Cassidy called on Lord Mayor Graham Quirk to reverse the ban immediately, claiming it endangered workers and was a poorly conceived cost-cutting exercise.
“Drivers’ health is being put at risk from bureaucratic penny-pinching,” he said.
“According to the council’s own website, on a 30-degree day, the temperature inside a car can be as high as 70 degrees.
“Everyone knows you don’t leave children or pets in cars on hot days. Lord Mayor Quirk is so far out of touch he seems to [think] he can over-rule state regulations and leave drivers to sit in hot buses during a heatwave.”
Cr Cassidy called on Cr Quirk to leave his airconditioned office and airconditioned car to go to the bus depots and ask drivers what it was like to sit in a non-airconditioned bus.
Council public and active transport chairman Adrian Schrinner said the opposition’s claims were ludicrous and the council would not reverse the ban.
“This is not a safety issue,” he said.
“Definitely it’s a comfort issue and I acknowledge that but it’s not a safety issue and there’s a big difference.
“Ultimately this is about ensuring that the buses aren’t causing a pollution issue out in the suburbs and that is a real concern, both noise and the emissions from the buses idling as well.”
Cr Schrinner said bus drivers were not forced to stay on the bus when they were idling and he encouraged drivers to get out of the bus and have a break.
“We’re not saying they must stay in a hot bus,” he said.
“We will be continuing the existing practice which provides the right balance between the drivers, the local residents and also minimising pollution as well.”
Source : The Brisbane Times