Workers decry debilitated condition of bus transports

Sunday, May 8th, 2011
staff bus

A damaged Family Transport bus which usually carries AUC custodial staff and workers, Photo by Peter Wissa

The sun cuts through the ripped curtains of the small decrepit bus, hitting passengers’ faces. The coughing engine puts them on the edge of their seats.

Security guards who often ride the bus to check passenger IDs, were absent when I boarded and no one asked for identification. I was on assignment for The Caravan to check on the conditions of the buses used by custodial staff.

Mamdouh Gaber, AUC transportation director, would later tell me: “Workers usually know each other, and are accompanied by their team leader, so they can detect if a stranger is riding the bus.”

“However, we are trying to have more [security] control over these matters in the upcoming period.”

But I rode the bus undetected, with so much as a quizzical look from anyone.

Workers say the don’t always identify their colleagues since there are some they don’t recognize.

“A worker might be from the old campus. We don’t have the right to tell someone not to ride the bus. It is the university’s responsibility,” said, a worker, who chose to remain anonymous.

The bus driver started moving 12 minutes late as he was occupied with filling the daily record. This record contains details such as pick-up and drop-off times at every stop he makes.

Though the date of the record filled should have read May 2, the driver filled information for the April 30 record.

“I was engaged in filling the data for an entire month along with the previous driver. He was making up numbers while I just wrote them down in the record,” an anonymous worker said.

Not a standard mode of transportation for students, AUC workers’ buses are dilapidated, badly in need of repair.

The condition of the bus was miserable. Next to the broken-down air conditioning unit, the bus seemed like it would break down at any minute as it took to the road in spurts and stops.

“Family transport is responsible for maintenance yet we respond to complaints, when they come,” Gaber said.

The university has just invested in repairing the air conditioning in four buses.

“I had a look at them just recently, and they [buses] did require repairs including those for curtains, seating, and new tyres,” Gaber added.

Many workers complained that the buses they ride have been in an impaired state since the move to the New Campus.

“The bus broke down many times on Road 90. They never send another one when this happens. We are left waiting until any bus perchance passes by,” an anonymous worker, said.

The workers refrained from mentioning their names because they feared they might be penalized by the Facilities and Operations department.

“Sometimes, the driver sleeps at the wheel because he is 60 years old. All I want is for them to change the curtains because they are very dirty. I hate to touch them because if I do, dust will cover my clothes,” Ali, a custodial staff worker, said.

There are currently 10 buses used by custodial staff and workers, operating on a 6:30 am schedule from four stops in Greater Cairo.