A series of amendments will be brought to existing legislations so as to deter members of the public from assaulting bus workers while using public transport. The amendments have become essential following the security concerns raised by bus workers amid a series of attacks.
This was the gist of a press conference held this morning at the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and Land Transport and chaired by the Communication and Public Relations Officer of the National Transport Corporation, Mr P. Gopal. The Chief Road Transport Inspector of the National Transport Authority (NTA), Mr I. Burtun, and the Superintendent of Police responsible of the Emergency Response Service (ERS) Transport Squad, Mr. J-C. Ramsay, were also present.
One of the responsibilities of the NTA, highlighted Mr Burtun, is to enforce two legislations so as to ensure the good functioning of public transport. They are: the Road Traffic Conduct of Passengers Regulations 1967; and the Road Traffic Conductors and Drivers Regulations 1954. He recalled that following a workshop, organised at the initiative of the Bus Industry Employees Welfare Fund in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and Land Transport, held in August 2018 and focussing on assault on bus workers, a series of recommendations, including amendments to be brought to the existing legislations, were formulated.
These amendments include, among others, an increase of fines for all persons assaulting either bus drivers or conductors from Rs 5 000 to Rs 10 000 and imprisonment of six months; the introduction of compulsory CCTV cameras for all buses; and fines to persons carrying dangerous weapons. Mr Burtun pointed out that, in addition to physical and verbal assault, illegal taxis as well as van operators are a source of major conflict within the public transport industry. The NTA carries out crackdown operations on a regular basis around the island in order to mitigate these conflicts. From December 2016 to December 2018, the NTA, with the collaboration of the ERS Transport Squad, had issued more than 10 000 fines to illegal operators, he added.
For his part, Mr Gopal underscored that the ERS Transport Squad, set up in February 2018, and all bus operators are working in close collaboration so as to sensitise bus workers, give them training in customer care and self-defence, and to identify hotspots. He also made an appeal to members of the public to alert the concerned authorities should they witness assault on bus workers.
Mr Ramsay, for his part, gave an overview of duties carried out by the ERS Transport Squad in La Tour Koenig, Albion, Coromandel, and Pointe aux Sable, among others, which are considered as hotspots. He also outlined that the Squad, comprising some 18 police officers, regularly receive help from other ERS teams around the island.