JUTC drivers say they are not safe

BY SHANAE STEWART
Observer staff reporter
stewarts@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

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DRIVERS employed to the State-run Jamaica Urban Transit Company's (JUTC) say they feel unsafe, following the slashing of a driver in the face yesterday by a passenger at the Half-Way-Tree Transportation Centre.

Some of the drivers lamented that they are always worried about their safety while on the job.

“The level of safety is at a very low level right now. Based on the angle at which we are operating in the bus, we are exposed to several different dangers because we are sitting at the front,” one driver said.

“There are 53 or more passengers behind us and, based on the level of concentration we have to execute, we are not able to pay attention to other things like facial expressions to help to determine whether or not somebody is planning something against us. Oftentimes we only become aware when we come under attack,” he continued.

The driver said he has less than pleasant experiences with the passengers all the time.

“I had an incident the other day, where a schoolboy came into the bus and started to vandalise the bus. A member of the company was on another bus and saw particles coming through the window, identified what it was, and intervened. It caused an altercation and an off-duty policeman got involved.

“The schoolboy then waited until I was at the stoplight waiting on the green light to come up to the front of the bus, press the button to open the door and he jumped out.

“The police had to get assistance from a passing police vehicle to pick up the schoolboy down the road,” he said.

Another bus driver at the transport centre shared the same sentiments.

“Every day that I come out I have to mentally prepare for anything to happen at any time,” the second driver said.

“A part from being threatened, we are a target to thieves simply because we have cash on the bus.

“A card system was implemented, yet still we are still collecting cash in hand. The premium buses are the only buses that do not accept cash in hand,” he said.

A third bus driver was in agreement with the other two drivers.

“Every day when I come out and arrive home, I have to thank God for protecting me through the day.

“The fact is there are 53 or more people who enter the bus daily, with 53 different mindsets, and even if one person should try and attack the driver, other passengers keep quiet.

“Our lives are threatened by passengers, pedestrians and even taximen. I love the job, I enjoy it, but I always have to be pondering about when someone will launch an attack on me,” the driver said.

The JUTC driver, wounded by the knife-wielding passenger in the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre after nine yesterday morning, told him to keep the bus windows closed.

The passenger reportedly demanded back his fare and soon thereafter approached the driver, who was preparing to return the money, and attempted to stab the driver.

The driver saw what was happening and moved away, but he still received a slash to his face.

The attacker ran off the bus and was pursued by the driver who eventually held him along Eastwood Park Road where the police intervened and accosted the violent passenger.

Following the incident, the JUTC management is not pleased with the attacks and urged passengers to desist from harming drivers and damaging the buses.

Paul Abrahams, managing director of the JUTC, meanwhile, appealed to drivers for calm after they suspended their service for an hour as they vented their disapproval over the incident.

Cecil Thoms, the company's corporate communications manager, said that the latest attack came on the heels of a similar incident that took place earlier this month, in which another driver was stabbed multiple times in the Half-Way-Tree area.

“These incidents are very concerning and we hope that this does not become a trend. We are appealing to passengers to not tamper with any part of the bus and to generally abide by the company's rules,” he said, as he wished the injured driver a speedy recovery.


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