Commuters across Brisbane and south-east Queensland can soon expect a boosted security presence on buses, with the state government unveiling an almost $65 million five-year investment to hire new public transport officers and fit more protective barriers for drivers.
Transport Minister Mark Bailey made the announcement on Wednesday after days of talks involving the government, council and unions to address issues that had pushed drivers on two routes to act under workplace safety laws until concerns were dealt with.
Rail Tram and Bus Union health and safety representatives issued notices under workplace laws on Friday over concerns about the safety of drivers operating the 100 and 110 routes to Forest Lake and Inala in Brisbane’s south at night.
A total of $60.7 million will go towards hiring new senior network officers, tasked with preventing fare evasion but also empowered to enforce travel conditions with fines, with recruitment for an initial round of 29 officers to start next month.
The officers will be deployed with bus operators on the Gold Coast, in Logan and on the Sunshine Coast, with the funding also said to provide extra police assistance for the Brisbane metropolitan area.
“Currently we have police who are dedicated to our rail network who do a terrific job, and I know our passengers love to see them when they’re at stations and on rail services,” Bailey told reporters.
“But we also need them on the bus services where … there’s antisocial behaviour going on.”
A second round of 50 network officers will start work across the second year of the program, which Bailey described as a significant expansion in frontline public transport services ahead of an expected lift in usage over the coming decade.