Bus driver prevents train crash
\An Auckland bus driver has gone from suspended to commended after waving down a passenger train that was going to smash through her bus which had stalled across the tracks.
Auckland Tramways Union president Gary Froggart said the 42-year-old driver left the depot on Wednesday at 7.30am and after checking for passing trains, proceeded across the Victoria and Princes streets crossing at Onehunga, when her vehicle stalled.
''When she moved off from the stop line the bus crossed the lines and stalled,'' he said.
''While she was attempting to restart it the barrier arms came down and she realised there was a train coming.''
The driver left the bus and ran down the tracks some 700m to wave down the train which was able to safely stop.
Two other bus drivers leaving the depot then helped her move the stalled bus.
A meeting between the woman and her bosses resulted in her being suspended on full pay.
Froggart said NZ Bus then sent her a letter stating she had positioned her bus across a railway line which was a potential misconduct and could result in her losing her job.
NZ Bus wrote: ''..the company has made the decision to suspend you from duties on full pay while we conduct an investigation into an allegation you positioned your bus across railway lines.
''The allegations are potentially serious misconduct and an outcome may include in the termination of your employment.''
Froggart said the driver approached the union which took the matter up on her behalf.
''She came to us upset and stressed because she felt she hadn't done anything wrong,'' he said.
A hearing was held yesterday at which a second driver was able to give a statement. The female driver was then taken off suspension and instead praised for her actions.
''Another driver was behind her at the time and had tried to start the bus and couldn't initially,'' he said.
''He tried three times before he got it got off.''
Froggart said it was known there were mechanical issues with the fleet of Series 800 buses which was the same model the woman couldn't restart.
NZ Bus chief operating officer Shane McMahon said a breach of health and safety procedures was the company's main concern when standing the driver down.
''When we have an investigation of this nature that investigation looks at the bus mechanics and the driver's actions. We found the driver's actions were appropriate and we have confirmed it was not a mechanical failure - the bus stalled,'' he said.
''We have met with the driver and the matter has been resolved.''
McMahon refuted claims there are mechanical issues with the fleet of buses.
''Mechanically they are fit for purpose,'' he said.
''When a bus stalls you can't immediately turn it on and start it again.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
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