x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Charm school plan for rude bus drivers

Scheme will weed out drivers who are rude or threaten the safety of passengers by driving badly.

Commuters wait at the bus station in Al Satwa, Dubai. An undisclosed number of inspectors will discreetly monitor the service.
Commuters wait at the bus station in Al Satwa, Dubai. An undisclosed number of inspectors will discreetly monitor the service.

DUBAI // A new squad of undercover inspectors will be boarding buses throughout Dubai to weed out drivers who are rude or threaten the safety of passengers by driving badly or failing to obey the road rules. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has launched its "mystery rider" initiative, which will see inspectors monitor the behaviour of drivers towards passengers as well as their driving discipline.

Drivers found to be falling short of certain standards would be sent for retraining in various aspects of the job including communication skills and courtesy, a senior official from the RTA's Public Transport Agency said. "This mystery rider scheme is aimed ultimately at improving our service and making bus travel easier and a more pleasant experience for customers by seeing how our drivers perform," said Mohammed bin Fahad, the director of planning and business development.

"The inspectors will be making sure the drivers are performing to the best of their ability, and this will include factors such as politeness and attitude towards passengers. They will also make sure he is following the rules and regulations of the road and driving in a safe manner." Mr Fahad, who is overseeing the project, said an undisclosed number of inspectors would not only try to find fault with bus drivers, but would also keep look for examples of good practice that could be rewarded.

"It's not just about finding examples of drivers with a poor attitude, but also looking for ones who behave and drive well, who set an example of what all drivers should be aiming for," said Mr Fahad. "We will be looking to reward such drivers for their excellence and this, too, will help improve our service." Mr Fahad said the RTA received about 60 to 70 customer comments - not all of them complaints - a week relating to buses.

Asked if the scheme was a result of customer complaints, Mr Fahad said: "Of course, we receive some complaints - sometimes about the driver's attitude and sometimes about the manner of driving - but the initiative is about improving our service for everybody. "Not all passengers will ever be satisfied, but at least through initiatives like this we can try to reach a level of service where most people are happy."

Residents of Dubai who regularly travel by bus said they had often witnessed substandard driving and occasionally rudeness from drivers. Dahab Bhatnagar, 46, uses the bus three times a week to travel from Jumeirah to the Mall of Emirates with her two young children, and is frequently appalled by the quality of driving. "The drivers do not seem to care for using signals when changing lanes, and often pull out in front of other motorists very suddenly, which can be a bit scary," she said. "On one or two occasions, when I have not had the exact change for my fare, the driver has been very annoyed and quite rude."

Agneya Chauhan, 30, said he found the drivers generally polite, but once experienced disrespect when catching a bus from Al Wasl Road to Bur Dubai. "Pulling in to Satwa bus station, I asked the driver why he had stopped and was told only then that the bus terminated there and another bus would be taking passengers to Bur Dubai 40 minutes later," he said. "When I complained about this, the driver was very dismissive and hostile towards me. I think it would be good for a driver like that to learn how to treat passengers properly."

Essa al Dosari, the Public Transport Agency's chief executive, said it was critical for bus drivers to display high levels of courtesy and politeness. "The Public Transport Agency considers bus drivers as ambassadors of the RTA, as they are in daily contact with riders such as residents, visitors and tourists. The mystery rider initiative is a qualitative performance measure characterised by being objective and based on a number of specific standards against which the effectiveness of drivers' performance and daily attitudes towards passengers are benchmarked.

"Nevertheless, the mystery rider initiative is not only restricted to monitoring poor performance and malpractices of drivers, but also aims to detect the excellent performance of assiduous drivers, who are keen to deliver super services to passengers. Such drivers ought to be rewarded, praised and urged to further improve the level of service offered." On a typical day, buses in Dubai collectively cover a distance of about 168,000km. Comments about bus journeys can be made through the "feedback and suggestions" section of the RTA's website (www.rta.ae) or by calling 04 800 9090.

@Email:arichardson@thenational.ae