Bus system chokes at startup

Bus system chokes at startup

Crashes and "ghost calls" causing problems for drivers and controllers

London’s £117m satellite bus communications project has run into early problems affecting transport management and driver safety.

Transport for London’s iBus scheme, which started last year, will ultimately install state-of-the-art tracking technology on more than 8,000 vehicles on 700 routes across the capital.

But rollout at the first two of the capital’s 87 bus depots has been accompanied by continual system failure, a source at one affected garage told Computing.

“The system crashes on a regular basis ­ up to four times a week ­ and once it was down for most of the day,” said the source.

“In the meantime drivers have no communication whatsoever and we don’t know where the buses are.”

As well as operational problems for central controllers, there are also serious implications for drivers when the system crashes.

They are having to use their mobile phones to communicate their position to their station - ­ an activity that could get them arrested.

And they are unable to use the system’s Code Red emergency button to alert managers or police to trouble.

Network outages have not been the only issue. The Code Red system is also issuing random emergency calls. ­

Last month, one garage manager logged more than 60 ghost calls in a single night.

“Bad wiring on some buses means that every time they are started they make an emergency call,” said the source.

“The danger is that if there is a real problem then it is not going to get picked up.”

Trade union Unite, which represents London’s bus drivers, has been in touch with Arriva, which runs the faulty buses, but with little effect.

“Arriva is admitting problems with the system, but it is not being specific about what it is doing about it,” said a Unite spokesman.

“We are concerned that Arriva addresses these problems before the rollout continues and more drivers are endangered.”

Transport for London said responses to the system had been good.

“So far the response from drivers has been largely positive,” said a spokeswoman.

The technology is provided by Siemens.