London bus drivers threaten strikes over 'chronic levels' of exhaustion

6 January 2020, 09:21

Bus drivers will be balloted over strike action
Bus drivers will be balloted over strike action. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Commuters in London could face transport chaos as 20,000 bus drivers are threatening to strike over "chronic levels" of exhaustion.

Union Unite said it planned to hold a consultative ballot of members in London over whether to launch a campaign of strikes.

The union has demanded bus operators take a number of steps to address the problem of exhaustion among drivers.

Unite has also called on bus operators to end low pay which they claim creates a "long-hours culture that’s fuelling driver fatigue."

TfL have urged drivers to work with them to address the issue
TfL have urged drivers to work with them to address the issue. Picture: PA

The union said it was calling for decisive action to tackle fatigue being experienced by bus drivers, including proper breaks and making sure they finish their shifts on time.

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.

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.

"Unite will shortly be conducting a consultative ballot and provided our members endorse industrial action, strikes will follow later this year unless action is taken to ensure that the problems causing chronic fatigue for our members are resolved."

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.”