Oak Flats incident shows bus drivers vulnerable to abuse: union

The Oak Flats incident in March last year, as captured on the bus' CCTV camera. Picture: Supplied

The Oak Flats incident in March last year, as captured on the bus' CCTV camera. Picture: Supplied

An expletive-laden tirade directed at an Illawarra bus driver was “a bad example” of what those behind the wheel of public transport put up with every day, according to the union. 

The NSW Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has used the incident, and the recent sentencing of the man responsible for the foul-mouthed tirade, to call for state government action.

Paul Nathan Talbot, a 36-year-old tradie from Dapto, this week pleaded guilty to charges of affray and reckless driving in Wollongong Local Court.  

Talbot was handed an eight-month suspended prison sentence, fined $1500 and banned from driving for three years.

The court heard Talbot boarded a Premier Illawarra bus at Oak Flats on March 24 last year and accused the driver of failing to use his indicator.

More than 20 students, some as young as six, witnessed the ordeal.

“Get the f—k out now c—t,” Talbot yelled during his verbal attack, indicating for the driver to leave the vehicle.

In a statement, the TWU said drivers “have to put up with a lot behind the wheel” and Talbot’s behaviour was “a particularly bad example”.

TWU bus industry official Nimrod Nyols told the Mercury drivers were often “the face of the problem” and the public’s frustration was taken out on them.

“They’ve got no protection, they’re prone, they’re ... the first thing that the passengers see when they come on the bus,” Mr Nyols said.

As a result of the Oak Flats incident, the TWU has called on NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance to review security on bus services across the state. 

“We would urge that the necessary resources be made available to NSW Police to better target known trouble spots in the transport network,” the union said.

In response, Mr Constance said the government was “committed to safety and security on buses”.

“We are always happy to hear proposals from the union on how it can be improved,” he said.

Transport for NSW worked closely with the police “to reduce assaults and anti-social behaviour”, a department spokesman said.