Passengers turning aggressive? Here's what bus captains should do, says Iswaran

PHOTO: The Straits Times file

Last November, a bus captain was punched and kicked by two intoxicated commuters who were upset that the former had told them to put on their masks properly. 

The bus captain's nose was broken during that vicious attack. 

The incident was raised in Parliament on Monday (Feb 28) by MP Yip Hon Weng (PAP-Yio Chu Kang) to the Minister for Transport, S. Iswaran. 

In his parliamentary question, Yip asked:

  • Whether due consideration was given to the safety of the driver and other passengers when the bus captain was advised by the operations control room to stop the bus and lock its doors;
  • Whether the Ministry will be looking into enhancing public safety under such scenarios; 
  • For the Ministry to provide an update on the installation of protective barriers in buses. 

In a written reply in Parliament, Iswaran said that public transport operators have standard operating procedures or SOPs in place to manage incidents that bus captains may face in the course of their duties, which include physical or verbal abuse by commuters. 

He listed some de-escalation procedures that bus captains can take when they face aggressive commuters. These include: 

1. Reporting the incident to Bus Operations Control Centres (BOCCs) 

In the event of physical or verbal abuse by commuters, bus captains are to report such incidents to BOCCs, who will activate the police where necessary. 

2. Stopping the bus and waiting for the police

If commuters remain aggressive even after attempts to de-escalate the situation, bus captains can stop their vehicles at the next bus stop to wait for the police. 

3. Opening the bus doors for the bus captain and commuters to leave 

If the aggressive commuter's presence puts the bus captain or other commuters' safety at risk, the BOCC advises bus captains to open the doors to exit if necessary. 

With regard to the incident cited by Yip, Iswaran said that the bus captain was assaulted after reminding the two commuters to put on their masks. 

Furthermore, as the attacks happened suddenly, the BOCC did not provide further guidance to the bus captain. 

He added that both assailants have been charged in court. One of them has been sentenced to 10 months' jail, while court proceedings for the second assailant are pending. 

Iswaran also addressed the issue of protection barriers in buses, citing that these barriers were trialled in 2018 and 2020.

However, these were discontinued after some bus captains provided feedback that the glare from the barriers posed a safety risk when driving. 

ALSO READ: 'Drive carefully can or not?' Bus passengers pull down masks to eat ice cream, taunt driver

claudiatan@asiaone.com