Consumer protection authority suspends part of Bucharest's public transport fleet on safety grounds
Romania’s National Authority for Consumer Protection (ANPC) has temporarily withdrawn from circulation more than 80 vehicles belonging to Bucharest’s public transport company STB, for safety issues and other irregularities. Bucharest mayor Nicusor Dan accused ANPC of sabotage and claimed that the institution was working on the orders of his opponents from the Social Democratic Party (PSD).
ANPC’s inspectors ruled the sanctions against STB on Monday, May 9, after following up on a control carried out in March this year. The control unit inspected STB’s buses, trolleybuses, and trams, as well as some of the buildings in the company’s administration, and discovered a whole host of issues that had not been resolved.
“Forty days ago, we carried out an inspection of STB depots and at that time we talked with the management of the company about certain measures to be taken in the short term, such as the state of cleanliness and hygiene of the vehicles, which were in an advanced state of filth, and we also started a conversation about medium and long-term measures. Unfortunately, nothing has been done in the meantime, besides the addition of a few mop heads and some new brooms,” said the head of the ANPC, Horia Constantinescu, in a press conference on the matter.
According to the ANPC, as many as 85 trams are not equipped with access ramps, making them inaccessible to passengers with disabilities.
Additionally, many vehicles showed serious signs of wear and tear, as well as a lack of proper hygiene and maintenance. Aboard the vehicles, the inspectors noted the following: interiors were extremely dirty, featuring seats and accessories such as support bars and handles coated in grime; metal fixtures were rusty; seats were damaged and torn, floors had missing portions of linoleum or mismatched bits that had been attached haphazardly; windows were blurry with dirt and some were cracked or broken; doors didn’t close fully; ventilation systems were running inefficiently and filled with dust; screws were coming loose; elements that were supposed to be there were missing (including ones essential for passenger safety), and the lighting system was in multiple cases only partially functional.
The buildings that the inspection unit visited were in the same condition of disrepair, with damaged walls, floors, and ceilings, non-functional access routes, and unsanitary cleaning stations. Issues around cleanliness were raised multiple times, even with regards to the materials used to keep the vehicles and buildings clean, which were old and dirty themselves and therefore completely ineffective.
The result of this inquiry is that the ANPC has temporarily removed 61 buses, 4 trolleybuses, and 18 trams from circulation, which are to await the resolution of the issues raised. The vehicles removed were declared not safe to drive, as there are issues with their brakes and steering systems, and they have aftermarket spare parts that were added by mechanics trying to make a quick fix.
“I want to sound an alarm. There are Tatra trams from 1967, which are supposed to last for 8-10 years, that are still in circulation; we've been using them for 20-30 years. The axles are 50-something years old, and these axles are being moved from one tram to another, with outdated brakes. Clearly, they are a danger on wheels to the citizens,” said ANPC official Paul Anghel.
“The situation is utterly dramatic. We have withdrawn from circulation only those vehicles that posed an immediate threat, but if we were to withdraw all the ones that are in trouble, the vast majority of Bucharest residents would have to find other ways of transportation,” added Horia Constantinescu.
Bucharest Mayor Nicușor Dan had a strong reaction to ANPC’s decision. Admitting the imperfections of the Bucharest transportation system, he nonetheless stated that the system shouldn’t be demolished just because it is not perfect. He also accused the institution of sabotage, claiming that this is an attempt to obstruct the city's public transport and calling the National Authority for Consumer Protection “PSD's new weapon in Bucharest.” He pointed to controls carried out by ANPC at hospitals and playgrounds managed by the Bucharest City Hall, which were also followed by sanctions.
“Public services cannot be blocked just because they are not provided to standards of excellence. We can’t lock everything in Bucharest, just because PSD wants revenge on those who did not vote for it,” Nicusor Dan said, adding that the City Hall doesn’t have enough money to solve all the problems.
In response, PSD leader Marcel Ciolacu said mayor Nicusor Dan didn’t rise up to the position he’s holding and that he should resign. ANPC head Horia Constantinescu declined to comment on the mayor’s allegations during his most recent appearance at a press conference.
by Maia Van Kline, journalist
(Photo source: Dreamstime.com)