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Bus Services Bill [HL] - Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:47 pm on 24th October 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green 6:47 pm, 24th October 2016

My Lords, this amendment is about bus safety. I would like to think that it is so sensible that it will be accepted. Statistics released by the Department for Transport show that 5,381 collisions of buses and coaches were recorded last year, of which 64 resulted in fatalities and 638 in serious injuries. This amendment would help to address this worrying safety record by requiring all bus operators to subscribe to CIRAS, the Confidential Incident Reporting and Analysis System, and for bus operators and their contracting local authorities to collect and publish casualty data for public scrutiny every quarter.

CIRAS is standard across the rail industry and began in 1996, when a team from Strathclyde University was asked to introduce a confidential reporting system for UK rail company ScotRail. It allows employees to report any health, safety, security and environmental concerns they might have. All employee information is kept confidential. Introducing CIRAS to the bus network would give employees an extra way of reporting any concerns, complementing the proven methods that are already in place for reporting and investigating incidents. Under huge pressure from one campaigner who was a victim of a bus crash, Tom Kearney, and with a little help from Green Party elected people, Transport for London adopted this policy on 31 July last year and subsequently incorporated it into its bus safety plan, published on 1 February this year. Due to the bus safety reporting practices we won in London, the Department for Transport has confirmed to us that we know the names of the bus operators involved in only 14 of those 64 fatal bus collisions; that is 22%.

According to a report published by CIRAS in July, since going live in January 2016, safety reports from TfL bus employees constituted 25% of all safety reports during the first half of the year. Since TfL bus operators are fewer than 2% of CIRAS members nationwide, that is a key indicator of the desire for bus sector employees to be proactive in reporting their operational safety concerns. It also means that the DfT has no idea which operators were involved in well over 5,000 bus collisions and 50 deaths last year. TfL knows every single one in over 27,000.

Operators in London carry more than half the passenger journeys in England and, including their services outside London, account for more than 80% of the market. Those operators already subscribe to the CIRAS scheme and will not incur any further cost as a result of the amendment. The cost to other operators of subscribing will be negligible: between £300 and £25,000 per annum depending on turnover and representing no more than 0.03% of their turnover. The amendment would also require operators to collect bus casualty data and provide it to the applicable authority. It would require those authorities to publish quarterly casualty data on their websites.

I am sure noble Lords know this already, but a death on the roads comes to nearly £2 million when the entire cost to public services is taken into account. Money could be saved massively, not only for the NHS, but also for councils and others who have to provide social services to bereaved families. Since 2014, Transport for London has provided more transparency for the public on both the extent of the problems and the very varied safety records of different operators. There is also a slightly concerning fact that this amendment could represent the only language in the Bill that addresses the operational safety performance of the bus services covered by this landmark legislation.

As has already been proven in the air, maritime and rail industries, public reporting and scrutiny of operator safety performance and access to confidential and independent incident reporting can do much to catalyse the formation of a self-reinforcing safety culture within companies. I believe that the amendment represents a proportionate measure to improve bus safety, learning from the progress made in the rail industry and in the bus market in London. I hope that the Government will support the amendment. I beg to move.