View Comments
Report reveals more bus fires
The West Australian

Bus drivers will walk off the job this week amid safety fears over gas-fuelled buses, as documents reveal there have been at least 13 fires on Perth buses in the past five years.

_The West Australian _ has obtained a safety report - carried out after a fire on the same type of bus in Sydney - in which WA authorities reported 11 bus fires from 2007 to 2009.

The fires related to the Mercedes-Benz OC500 LE model, which is fuelled by compressed natural gas. In four of the fires, the buses were destroyed.

A blaze on a bus in Bentley on Saturday and a fire that destroyed a bus in Munster in December have taken the number of bus fires to 13 since the OC500 LE was introduced to the Perth network in 2005.

And the Public Transport Authority revealed yesterday there were another three incidents where potential fires were put out by a fire suppression system.

The cause of the latest fires is under investigation. Mercedes-Benz is expected to be involved in the investigation.

After Saturday's fire, Transport Minister Troy Buswell ordered all buses be examined before leaving depots yesterday. Those inspections did not find any faults.

Representatives of the PTA and the Transport Workers Union met to discuss the latest bus fire and agreed to improve driver training and look at ways to improve the fire suppression mechanisms.

The union believes more needs to be done. TWU State secretary Rick Burton said though it appeared the fires were not directly related to the CNG, there were still concerns about the safety of the bus model.

A meeting of drivers, probably on Thursday, would take place during the middle of the day to minimise disruption to the public.

There are 550 gas-fuelled buses operating in Perth.

In its report on the Sydney fire in 2011, the NSW Office of Transport Safety Investigations said three of the fires that destroyed WA buses were caused by a faulty oil supply pipe. A fourth fire was blamed on a coolant leak. It recommended replacing coolant lines and connecting hose fittings in OC500 LE buses.

PTA spokesman David Hynes said OC500 LE buses were destroyed by fire in September 2007, July 2008, September 2009 and December 2009.

He said before the December fire, buses were inspected about nine times a year. This was lifted to weekly and, after Saturday, would be stepped up to twice a week.