Bus passenger risked Sydney Harbour Bridge inferno to tap off Opal card
Transport investigators examining the bus fire that shut down the Sydney Harbour Bridge last September were left flabbergasted upon discovering a passenger ignored flames to jump back on to the bus to “tap off” their Opal card.
The fastidious passenger, Fairfax Media has learnt, was one of 22 people evacuated from State Transit service travelling northbound on the bridge before the driver noticed smoke spewing from the engine compartment into the back of the bus.
An initial report by the Office of Transport Safety Investigations found that passengers were evacuated within 15 seconds once the driver stopped near the north-western pylon as evening peak-hour traffic piled up behind.
Pictures taken by bystanders show flames reaching several metres into the air and thick black smoke billowing across the bridge before firefighters arrived.
A review of CCTV images from inside the bus showed the passenger risking all in a bid not to pay the highest fare – a consequence of not tapping off in the Opal fare system.
Fairfax Media understands the incident will be raised in the final OTSI report into the fire, likely to be released in the next fortnight.
But the perilous pursuit of the correct fare was likely to no avail, according to Jim Donovan of passenger advocates Action For Public Transport.
“The Opal readers will only allow people to tap off when the bus is at a stop. This person should obviously just have stayed well clear in any case,” he said.
Two passengers and the driver were transported to hospital and were treated for smoke inhalation after the fire.
It burned with such intensity that the road surface had to be repaired
Preliminary investigations by OTSI found the fire started within the engine bay and was likely electrical in nature. It was fed by hydraulic oil reservoirs and diesel fuel lines.
After a succession of fires in buses, State Transit is fitting fire suppression systems in all buses.
In its preliminary report OTSI flagged a look at “other safety matters”.
“These include but are not limited to: the shutdown procedure of buses, passenger evacuation in high-risk road environments, driver training, maintenance procedures and fire suppression systems on buses,” it said.
Read the original story in the Sydney Morning Herald.