School bus jeopardy
BELLINGEN Shire bus operators say overhanging trees, grass and debris along roadsides are creating traffic hazards and endangering the lives of the school children that travel them daily.
Gleniffer bus driver Trevor Keough said large overhanging branches were a particular problem because buses needed to manoeuvre across much more of the road, often without any vision of any oncoming traffic.
“If there are any cars coming, then we have to swing back into the vegetation and risk branches spearing through windows and causing injury,” Mr Keogh said.
“Plus there is the damage caused to paintwork and mirrors on the buses. We require a clearance of four metres for the rooftop air-conditioners, which are now mandatory. We can't use roof- top ventilation hatches as these will be ripped off.”
He said repeated approaches to the council about the problem over a number of years by shire bus drivers, both individually and collectively, had yielded no results.
“We are repeatedly told there is no funding for roadside vegetation management but that is not good enough. If there is no money then the council should stop people planting trees on the roadsides.”
Long-time driver on the Brierfield school run, Warren Weick, said the condition of the routes put a lot of stress on drivers.
“We never know where we will meet a car, or worse still, a large truck,” Mr Weick said.
“We've all been driving buses for years and we have seen the roads getting worse and worse.
“It's not a matter of killing off the vegetation but it needs to be controlled for the safety of the children and all road users.”
Bellingen Shire's director of engineering, Wayne Butler, said the council only had limited funding and had asked drivers to list the major areas of concern.
“When they report incidents to us, we inspect them and then address them, if we are of the same opinion,” Mr Butler said.
“We do what we can but we simply don't have the staff or resources to be as proactive as we would like.”
He said currently the council was prioritising repairing road surfaces after last year's damaging floods.
“In 20 years of local government I have never seen anything like the extent of damage here.
“I empathise with the drivers but our resources have to be spread across the shire – we do what we can.”
Mr Butler added the rate of vegetation regrowth in Bellingen Shire was phenomenal.
WHAT YOU MISSED:
Monday – story and photos of the Urunga boardwalk opening.
Tuesday – interview with Bellingen Shire's new general manager, Liz Jeremy.
WHAT'S COMING UP:
Friday – full page of shire news including an interview with local oral historian Peter Geddes about his video project, Bello Tales, now available from the Bellingen Library.
Plus details of this Friday night's special Jazz Society performance with Ian Date.