First step made for law change after death of Leamington boy

MPs and organisations in support of Matt Western's 10 Minute Rule Bill on limiting local bus driver's hours  includes Natasha Wilson (Rowan Fitzgeralds mother), Barbara Fitzgerald (Rowans grandmother), Andy McDonald MP (shadow Transport Secretary), RMT, Brake.
MPs and organisations in support of Matt Western's 10 Minute Rule Bill on limiting local bus driver's hours includes Natasha Wilson (Rowan Fitzgeralds mother), Barbara Fitzgerald (Rowans grandmother), Andy McDonald MP (shadow Transport Secretary), RMT, Brake.

The first step has been made to change the law in memory of a Leamington schoolboy, who died in a bus crash.

Matt Western, MP for Warwick and Leamington, introduced a Parliamentary Bill on Wednesday (February 13) that seeks to limit the driving hours worked by bus drivers on local routes, to prevent bus crashes caused through driver fatigue.

Rowan Fitzgerald

Rowan Fitzgerald

The Bill has been introduced in response to the Coventry bus crash in 2015 which killed seven-year-old Rowan Fitzgerald from Leamington and 76-year-old Dora Hancox from Nuneaton.

The 77-year-old driver, former Leamington mayor Kailash Chander, had been working 70 plus hour weeks leading up to the crash and was judged to be the critical factor in the trial of the bus driver and company that followed.

Matt Western MP has been working with Rowan's family and said: "Our laws around working hours for local bus drivers clearly aren’t keeping the public safe and it’s time to legislate to make sure another two people aren’t killed the next time a bus driver is asked to work too many hours than is safe.”

A statement from the family of Rowan said: “We strongly feel that there should be a change to the current law. If this proposal had been in place on the October 3 2015, then perhaps our beautiful boy Rowan Fitzgerald, and the pedestrian, Mrs. Dora Hancox, who were both killed in this tragic bus crash, would be alive today.”

The British laws which regulate bus drivers’ hours on local routes (of less than 50km) limit driving to 10 hours a day, with no weekly or fortnightly limit except that in any two consecutive weeks there must be at least one period of 24 hours off duty. This means it is legal for a local bus driver to drive 130 hours over a period of two weeks. On average, local bus drivers currently work nearly six hours per week more than average workers. Under EU law however, a long-distance bus driver or lorry driver cannot drive more than 56 hours a week, or more than 90 hours over any two consecutive weeks.

The Bill seeks to change the law so that driving hours for local bus drivers are capped at 56 hours a week, and no more than 90 hours over any two consecutive weeks, as it already is for long distance bus drivers and lorry drivers.

As the Bill is a 10-Minute Rule Bill, it is unlikely to pass into law at this stage, but campaigners hope that this will be the first step in a big push to get the Government to adopt the legislation. The Bill already has the support of the Shadow Chancellor, Shadow Transport Secretary, the Chair of the Transport Select Committee, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, Brake and others.

In relation to the fatal crash, bus company Midland Red was fined £2.35 million for health and safety breaches and driver Kailash Chander, who was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial, was found to have been driving dangerously at a fact finding trial.