Report shies away from recommending seatbelts on all buses

The NSW Bus Industry Taskforce has recommended a campaign to encourage the use of seatbelts on buses where they are available, and consideration of an 80km speed limit when passengers are standing.

Transport Minister Jo Haylen

However it has shied away from recommending mandatory seatbelts on all buses, saying this could compromise delivery of route services.

The taskforce was set up in May to improve bus services in the state, and its scope was later expanded to look at safety following a bus crash in the NSW Hunter region on 11 June in which 10 people died.

Its first safety report, handed to the government in July by Chairman John Lee but only released on October 13, focuses on safety measures for bus passengers, including school buses, regular route services and coaches.

It recommends that Transport for NSW consider rolling out an 80km/h limit for all bus services with standing passengers, and that it should implement a campaign to encourage ‘a culture of seatbelt compliance’ among bus passengers.

It also recommends considering regulatory or contractual measures to make sure bus operators inform passengers about the mandatory use of seatbelts. 

Current legal requirements make it mandatory for certain buses and coaches to be fitted with seatbelts.

It’s also a longstanding NSW policy to require seatbelts on school buses in regional NSW.

However route services are exempt from those requirements in recognition of what the report says is the need for frequent stopping and the need to maximise capacity.

Risk based approach

The report backs the continued rollout of the rural and regional seatbelt program outer metropolitan areas “founded on a risk-based approach”.

The taskforce notes that some transport advocates have called for there to be seatbelts on more

But it says: “while the safety concerns are acknowledged, this could have major implications for the delivery of regular route services”.

Mr Lee says the taskforce will give the proposal further consideration in future reports.

“The Taskforce notes that roll out of seatbelts has commenced in some parts of outer metropolitan areas, specifically in the Hunter region, where road quality and speed of travel are similar to those in regional areas,” he says.

“The Taskforce supports this approach and recommends that this rollout be completed as soon as possible.

“We also recommend a thorough examination of the risks associated with standees on buses, exploring potential risk mitigation approaches, including the limiting of maximum speeds for a bus with standing passengers.”

The government says it’s accepted the report’s recommendations in principle and TfNSW is developing an implementation plan.

TfNSW has also launched a safety campaign to educate bus passengers about the legal requirements of wearing a seatbelt when one is available.

“There is still work to be done when it comes to bus safety in NSW, but the NSW government is taking an important step by accepting all five recommendations from the first bus safety report,” transport minister Jo Haylen said in a statement.

“I have asked Transport for NSW to ramp up vital work in raising awareness of the importance of seatbelt laws on buses, especially on school buses.”

The taskforce’s first report into service quality, released in August, found a deterioration in on-time running and reliability, particularly in recently privatised regions which were affected by driver shortages and cancellations.

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