22 Oct 2022

Passenger punches driver in head after row over bringing lit cigarette on bus

3:05 pm on 22 October 2022

By Troels Sommerville of Stuff

The 125X at Westgate's interim bus hub

Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

A bus driver is in hospital after a man punched him in the head when he was told he couldn't get on to the bus with a lit cigarette.

The attack happened on Wednesday​ morning in Auckland's New Lynn​ and left the driver with a swollen face, a concussion and blurred vision in one of his eyes.

Speaking on behalf of her husband, who is still laid up in North Shore Hospital, the driver's wife said the attack was "shocking".

She said her husband had been waiting at a stop when a man approached the bus, looking to get on with a lit cigarette.

The driver told the man he couldn't get on the bus with the cigarette, but he had time to finish smoking it as the bus wasn't due to depart for another couple of minutes.

But when the driver closed the doors the man forced his way back on, the driver's wife said.

"He said no-one closes the door on him and started punching [my husband] in the face," she said

"He hit his head on the metal behind him - he has a concussion, cuts in his mouth and his face is a bit swollen."

Stuff has seen video of the attack, which shows the passenger punching the driver before berating him and leaving the bus.

The assault came on the same morning as another bus driver heading to Avondale was allegedly attacked just after 7am.

Gary Froggatt​, the president of the Auckland Tramways Union, said in that incident the driver was "whacked four times on the jaw" when a rowdy passenger objected to the route the driver was taking.

Froggatt, whose union didn't represent the New Lynn driver, said improvements needed to be made to keep drivers safe.

That included the installation of plastic screens to protect the drivers.

"It's going to be expensive, but it's the employer's responsibility to keep the employee safe," he said.

Froggatt previously said there had been "40 to 50" attacks on bus drivers this year and some drivers were leaving the industry because of it.

First Union spokesperson Gem Pritchard​ agreed that drivers faced aggression and prejudice on a daily basis - with the union's research showing that in the first 39 weeks of the year there was an average of one serious assault on drivers every week.

"Bus drivers are generally really concerned it's going to take a death before anything is going to be done."

Police have arrested a man in relation to the Avondale attack, while they confirmed they were still investigating the New Lynn incident.

* This story originally appeared on Stuff.