Dickens: Wellington's bus crisis blamed for death - something must change

Author
Andrew Dickens ,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 27 February 2019, 12:32p.m.
The family of former radio DJ Dmitri says the chaos of Wellington's bus network has killed their brother. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Yesterday my Facebook started pinging as the connections started sharing some sad news.  It’s always worrying when you feel your phone buzzing away in your pocket as the hive connects and gossips.

The news was that Dmitri Edwards had died, before his time at 49.

Dmitri. Dom. He did ZM nights and fill in shifts in Wellington back in the 90s. He was a sports editor at Radio New Zealand for 10 years and then worked at Beach FM on the Kapiti coast. After a restructure or two too many Dmitri quit the broadcasting game and went to work on the buses.

I never worked with Dmitri but he worked with other mates of mine and we chatted whenever we met and had a couple of epic nights together.  When he died yesterday, I was shocked and so was everyone I knew. He’d had a stroke at work on Friday and while things looked ok for a day, his condition worsened and he slipped away.

The reason I mention this is that I woke up this morning and saw his death had made the papers. His family had made the claim that the situation at NZ Bus in Wellington was so farcical and chaotic that the stress of Dmitri’s job was a contributing factor to his stroke.

I can confirm this because I phoned Dmitri a few months ago knowing that his job was as an operation manager.  Knowing that the Wellington Bus service was a nightmare, I asked him about it. 

He confirmed it’s a nightmare: the schedule revamp that doesn’t work, the lack of drivers to fulfil the promises that NZ Bus made to Wellington. He was tearing his hair out.

Dmitri had been there since 2012 running the ops, the schedules and the drivers. Last Friday he was midway through his shift.  He’d already made 85 changes to the schedules and drivers.

A bad day normally involves 20 changes in an entire shift. A bad day. And then he had his ultimately fatal stroke.

His family recognise that there are many factors behind strokes but say the working conditions at NZ Bus were the final straw.

So, in the memory of Dmitri, I’m going to say enough is enough.  I know public transport operation is a devilishly complex beast, but the suits and the brains behind bus operations around the country keep getting it wrong. 

The schedule revamps that look good on paper but are beyond the capabilities of the companies that won the tender.  The driver shortages that are chronic spurred on by the low wages which you can sheet home to the cut rate tender the bus companies made in the first place to get the gig.  The shuffling of drivers from one area of shortage to another because the shortage is worse. Auckland has a driver shortage but drivers were siphoned off to Tauranga because their shortage was worse.

The council and transport middle management who work their eight hour days at their desks staring at computer screens in a fantasy world of what is possible and have little idea of what’s going on on the street.

This has got to stop.  Because public transport can work and has worked.  I’ve used it all my life.  But everytime we cock it up, it gives its critics another chance to put the boot in and that makes it worse for everyone - including the snobs in their cars.

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