Stressed bus drivers get help

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 December, 2008, 12:00am

A Yunnan public bus company has hired a psychologist to counsel stressed-out drivers and teach them how to relax amid worsening traffic congestion and verbal abuse from passengers.

Traffic conditions in the provincial capital, Kunming , have worsened since October, when the city embarked on a one-year project to demolish and rebuild seven highway flyovers and build 11 new ones, a project that city Communist Party secretary Chou He said would ease gridlock.

Roads feeding into the city's Second Ring Road were dug up, and old flyovers were demolished, causing delays and frustration for bus drivers.

Last week, the Kunming Public Transport Company invited Chen Guifang , a psychologist at the Kunming General Hospital of the People's Liberation Army, to teach the drivers how to ease job stress and combat road rage.

Dr Chen instructed the drivers to take deep breaths when they became frustrated in traffic and suggested ways to stay positive, such as imagining the project being completed.

No5 Company secretary Zhu Weimin said it planned to offer two to three of these classes per year. A weekly gathering had been held among drivers on the same bus routes to allow them to share concerns.

Employees of the No5 Company, a division of the public transport company, told the Chuncheng Wanbao newspaper that they were stressed because travel times were longer.

Bus company supervisor Bao Jianqiang said the travel time along four bus routes had at least doubled, but the drivers still had to make a fixed number of journeys each day.

'Drivers are angry when their buses are trapped on the road, and they earn less if they cannot do enough trips each day,' Mr Bao said.

He said verbal abuse from some passengers had added to the pressures.

Zhang Qiang , office director of the No2 Company, said many drivers brought snacks and water to work because they did not have enough time to eat. 'A driver once spent five hours on a route that normally takes one hour,' he said.

Another supervisor from the No5 Company, Zheng Jianxiang , said drivers were worn out by the traffic congestion. 'Some anxious drivers do not follow safety regulations, such as by driving away from bus stops without closing the doors,' Mr Zheng said.