THE state government has announced a $200 million program that will see seatbelts installed on almost 1700 buses across the state.
While it is a great result for the Belt Up for Safety (BUS) Group that fought long and hard for this announcement there is a sting in the tail - the money will only be spent on dedicated school buses.
Many of the buses used for other services as well as school runs will not be covered.
The list of runs provided by the Transport for NSW website indicates that dedicated school buses with runs in areas such as Milton, Ulladulla, Kangaroo Valley, Sussex Inlet, Berry, Gerringong, Gerroa, Bendalong will be covered.
Runs from Nowra to Longreach-Burrier and Nowra to Berry and Shoalhaven Heads are covered but it does not appear to cover areas such as the eastern beaches – Culburra, Currarong, Callala or Jervis Bay (Huskisson and Vincentia) which students travel each and every day – all on 80km/h rural roads, which was one of the major safety concerns of the School Bus Safety Community Advisory Committee’s independent inquiry into school bus safety in rural and regional NSW.
Seatbelts will progressively be installed and standing phased out on almost 1700 dedicated school services (known to operators as contract ‘a’) over 10 years, starting this financial year.
The rollout of seatbelts is estimated to cost around $208 million over the period.
Secretary of the Belt Up for Safety (BUS) Group Jan Shalhoub said the announcement was certainly a step in the right direction.
The BUS Group has been fighting a campaign for seatbelts for more than 12 years after the 2001 death of Ulladulla school boy Kristian Carruthers in a bus accident at Wandandian.
“It is great news for those buses that are dedicated for school runs only,” she said.
“There are two types of contracts for bus companies with the Transport Department – one for buses which are a dedicated school run and another for buses that are used for normal passenger runs as well as school runs.
“I must admit we were probably hoping that all buses in regional areas would be included but at this stage it appears it is just dedicated school buses.
“I guess it is a compromise with the bus companies.
“There is nothing to say that parents of children who travel on buses not covered can’t still continue to lobby bus companies to get their buses seat belted as well.”
Mrs Shalhoub said it was ironic that the group’s president, Glenda Staniford, who fought so long and hard for this decision, mainly for safer travelling conditions for her children to the Bawley Point area while they were at school, was also not included in the run list.
“Ultimately we would like to see all regional buses seatbelted,” she said.