Latest bus collision death reignites safety concerns over London bus network

Tom Kearney with his sons and wife.

Tom Kearney with his sons and wife. - Credit: Archant

The death of a motorbike rider following a crash with a Transport for London (TfL) bus has reignited concerns about the safety of the London bus network.

The motorcyclist – a man in his 30s – was treated on the roadside by London Ambulance Service, but was pronounced dead at the scene in Green Lanes, at the junction with Woodberry Grove at around 7am on Saturday.

Safety campaigner Tom Kearney – who was nearly killed when he was in collision with a bendy bus in Oxford Street at Christmas 2009, and has been campaigning for TfL to improve its safety record ever since, said he felt despondent to hear of another death.

The married father-of-two was left in a coma for two weeks after his lungs collapsed when the accident happened, and in his years of campaigning he has pushed for TfL to publish its safety data quarterly.

Figures reveal that in the first six months of 2014, 576 people were hospitalised following accidents with TfL buses, and four people died.

Mr Kearney said: “The problem is that TfL and the bus companies operate under contracts which are unreasonable for a busy city – the drivers are under immense amounts of pressure to meet time targets, so they take risks and make bad decisions they normally wouldn’t.

“A vehicle that has 10 times the power of a car needs to be driven more carefully.”

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Mr Kearney wants Mayor of London Boris Johnson and TfL Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy to be held to account for the number of deaths and injuries, because TfL gives more weight to customer satisfaction in its contract performance targets than reducing deaths and injuries.

Last week London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon asked why London bus drivers do not have access to CIRAS (Confidential Incident Reporting and Analysis System), whereas tube drivers do.

The system would allow bus drivers to report unsafe practices on a confidential basis with the assurance that the reports would be independently investigated.

Factors like rostering, fatigue, work environment, rules and procedures, training and briefing are frequently reported to CIRAS by tube drivers, which could help improve bus safety.

Ken Davidson, TfL’s Head of Bus Operations, insisted bus travel in London was safe however.

He said: “We offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the motorcyclist who tragically died on Saturday after colliding with the rear of a route 141 bus.

“TfL and Arriva will be cooperating fully with the Metropolitan Police Service’s investigation.

“We record details of all incidents involving our buses, no matter how minor, and the numbers must be considered in relation to the scope and scale of a bus network that comprises of more than 8,600 buses, operating on 700 bus routes and carrying almost 2.4 billion passengers every year.

“Many incidents are not in fact connected to the operation of the bus, and are due to the actions of third parties, but are nonetheless recorded.”