Monday 6 January 2020 12:01 am

London bus drivers threaten strike action

Londoners could face more travel chaos in the new year as 20,000 bus drivers are threatening to strike.

Unite is preparing to ballot its members to decide if industrial action is taken over complaints of “chronic levels” of fatigue among bus drivers.

Read more: RMT pledges to fight Tory plans for ‘minimum service’ during strikes

A recent survey of 5,000 Unite bus drivers found 79 per cent of drivers made errors due to fatigue and that almost half worked six days a week.

A 2019 study by Loughborough University, and commissioned by Transport for London (TfL), found 21 per cent of London bus drivers had to “fight sleepiness” at least twice a week and that one-in-six had fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year.

The union said it wanted Transport for London (TfL) to change drivers’ scheduling to ensure they have proper breaks, finish on time and have enough time to complete their journeys.

Unite regional officer John Murphy said: “London bus drivers have had enough.

“They are permanently fatigued and at risk of being a danger to other road users, bus passengers and themselves.

“[TfL] must act decisively and stop trying to pass the problem onto bus operators who have consistently failed to resolve the issue and have instead allowed it to worsen.”

Last year, TfL announced it would create a new £500,000 “innovation fund” to deal with driver fatigue, along with several pledges to ensure drivers have adequate training and breaks.

The measures were announced in response to the Loughborough University report.

TfL director of bus operations Claire Mann urged Unite to continue to work with the body to address the issue.

“As this is such a complex and multifaceted issue there is no quick single fix, and the whole bus industry has a part to play,” she said.

“That’s why we need everyone to have open and honest conversations that address the whole picture of fatigue as we develop and deliver a range of solutions.”

It comes as Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon wrote to mayor of London Sadiq Khan last month about fears of fatigue among taxi and private hire vehicle drivers.

In a letter, seen by City A.M., Pidgeon said the mayor should commission a study similar to the one conducted by Loughborough University for bus drivers.

Read more: TfL and Sadiq Khan to write to government in funding bid

“If the results from such research in any way mirror the research findings from Loughborough University on bus driver fatigue, it would provide vital evidence to support the case for higher standards in the industry,” she said.

When the topic was broached at a London Assembly meeting last month, Khan said he would not commission a study.