Attwood: Bus safety must improve
Safety and standards on buses need to improve to boost public confidence in Northern Ireland, Environment Minister Alex Attwood has said.
Almost a quarter of buses tested in Northern Ireland had a serious roadworthiness defect or were committing at least one serious traffic offence, a survey found.
The figures were revealed by the Driver and Vehicle Agency in its first Northern Ireland bus compliance survey. nspectors checked 483 buses for roadworthiness and traffic offences such as tax, insurance and licensing. About a sixth had a serious defect while about 10% of the checks uncovered at least one serious traffic offence.
Mr Attwood said: "We have the most intensive period of new regulation and the reason is not to create a greater burden and cost for people, but to improve safety and standards to give people a high level of confidence."
He said most buses are safe but efforts should be made to address remaining problems.
The survey identified a variety of mechanical defects, lights and signalling problems, braking faults, and issues with bodywork and interiors. Roadside checks were carried out between January and March on randomly-selected buses across the country. The overall figure was similar to a survey of taxis, where no faults were found in 75.3% of vehicles.
Mr Attwood said only 20 out of 480 vehicles had serious issues of roadworthiness which needed to be remedied immediately. He said: "The very critical cases are quite small in number but those are very worrying because in the event of an accident or in the event of a problem with the roads that is where the serious risk is going to arise."
Karen Magill, chief executive of the Federation of Passenger Transport Northern Ireland, welcomed the checks and said safety was a priority.
"The Federation's members are committed to ensuring passenger safety and the highest level of compliance and good practice and an average of 97% of members companies coaches pass their PSV re-certification to assess their roadworthiness first time.
"In addition, it is notable that 96% of all Translink buses, who are our largest member, pass their PSV re-certification first time. These statistics for Northern Ireland are above the Great Britain standard where the first time pass rate of large operators is 93%."