By Colin MacGillivray
A MITCHELL Shire bus operator is taking a stand against ongoing abuse directed at one of its female drivers.
Karin Folino, who drives a Kilmore bus route for Seymour Passenger Services, said she had been repeatedly targeted by some passengers when she tried to prevent them from fare evading.
She said she believed passengers thought they could intimidate her because she was a woman.
“I’ve been called all sorts of names and swearwords,” she said.
“Last week there was a man who got on the bus and told me he was homeless. I let him on, but I told him next time he would need to get a ticket from the Salvation Army, who purchase them from [Public Transport Victoria] and then hand them out to homeless people.
“He tried to get on a few days later and I told him he needed proof, and he started to get nasty.
“I told him he could get off the bus, because I don’t need to put up with that. I had to call the police, and as he got off the bus he turned around and said to me, ‘I’m going to get you’. That really put the wind up me.
“Sometimes I wonder if they choose me because they think because I’m female they can intimidate me. I’m the wrong person to pick on, because I take my job seriously.”
Seymour Passenger Services general manager Stuart Locke said the treatment Ms Folino received was unacceptable.
“I’d just like it to be known that it won’t be tolerated,” he said.
“We do have camera footage on our buses and we do have the means to win this war on people who intimidate not only female drivers, but any driver who they think will buckle when someone tells them ‘I’m not paying’.
“It puts drivers in a really bad spot. It needs to be raised publically that it’s not acceptable.
“A female driver is getting hammered, and it might only be a couple of times a month, but that’s a couple of times a month too often.
“Let’s have the people who are law-abiding and pleasant and nice – which is 99 per cent of them – understand that if someone gets on and they’re aggressive, it shouldn’t be the driver’s problem to confront them.”
Mr Locke said he had tried to report the abuse to relevant authorities but received little assistance.
“I pass it onto the authorised officers from PTV, but because of COVID they say they can’t go out and do anything, which is passing the buck to be honest,” he said.
“Even the police can’t do much about it because they’re not transit officers. They say it’s not really their domain unless someone physically assaults the driver. They say it’s a ticketing issue and they can’t do much about it.”
Ms Folino said she had become used to dealing with belligerent passengers, but fare evaders were jeopardising services for the majority of people who paid to use the bus.
“People need to be honest. If it doesn’t get recorded that people are using the service, we’re going to lose it. It’s becoming more and more popular, so I’m pretty sure people don’t want to lose it,” she said.
“I don’t know if they think I’m stupid and that I don’t know that they’ve got no money on their Myki card, but I didn’t come down in the last shower. It’s not fair to the other passengers who are paying to be on the bus.
“Now when they call me names I just laugh and tell them to come up with something different because I’ve been called that before. I’ve got to laugh about it, because if I didn’t laugh I would probably be in the corner in the foetal position.”