Canadian bus drivers push for improved security

The union representing Greyhound bus drivers says it will push for improved security measures such as restricting carry-on bags, introducing luggage screening and random baggage inspection when it meets with company management next month.

A spokesman for the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Jim Higgs, said the grisly stabbing and beheading of a sleeping passenger on a Greyhound bus near Portage la Prairie has heightened security concerns for bus drivers and passengers.

"If you get on in a rural area, you won't be allowed a carry-on, is my proposal. It will have to go underneath the coach," Higgs said. "If you're travelling a short distance, there's no need for carry-on luggage. It's a relief to the driver to have it underneath, unless you're travelling with medical supplies or something. At least then we can minimize the chance of an instrument like that getting on a coach."

Higgs said drivers currently do their best to scrutinize passengers which has resulted in "removal of knives and stuff and the people have put them underneath the coaches but now we have to go one step further and restrict the carry-ons."

On July 30, Greyhound passengers watched in horror as a man stabbed and decapitated Tim McLean, 22, as he slept on the bus from Edmonton to Winnipeg. Vincent Li, 40, is charged with second-degree murder in the attack.

Eric Carr -- a veteran Greyhound driver of 25 years -- admits getting behind the wheel of a bus the following day wasn't easy.

"In our business, it's like any job dealing with the public... you get people that get irritated. We've had people that have been drunk. But nothing like extreme violence like this. This has been unbelievable."

On Aug. 18, RCMP also charged a 30-year-old man with assault, uttering threats and possession of a weapon during a Greyhound bus trip from Fort McMurray, Alta., to Edmonton.

Carr said he's in favour of improved security measures, but he doesn't think screening people every time they get on and off a bus is feasible.

"Someone can get off and purchase something and get back on with it. How do we stop that?"

Greyhound spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh said Transport Canada is conducting a risk assessment for Greyhound buses that will help draft security policy if changes are needed. But she said Greyhound would require government funding if new security procedures such as passenger screenings and metal detectors are implemented.

The Amalgamated Transit Union, (ATU) represents about 2,000 bus drivers and support staff, including 1100 Greyhound drivers.

-- Canwest News Service