PUBLIC transport is widely seen as the answer to our growing traffic woes, but Hong Kong's bus system is suffering from its own kind of stress. Concerns over safety have been heightened after a string of accidents grabbed the headlines. Last January, a woman was dragged 300 metres with her right leg trapped in the door of a double decker bus before the driver noticed. And in December, two buses collided in an incident which left one driver dead in Shamshuipo and, in another case, driver error was blamed after a double decker went out of control and toppled over in Aberdeen. A Sunday Morning Post investigation has revealed some drivers are spending as much as 11 hours behind the wheel, with just one 30-minute break. 'I start at 2.45 pm and finish at 1.50 am, with just a 30-minute break,' said a 36-year-old driver who refused to give his full name for fear of losing his job. 'I spend 10 minutes eating my lunch, and the rest smoking and trying to rest. By the time I get home, I am too tired to do anything after work. I never feel like going out. I just have a shower and go to sleep. 'It's a very stressful job. You have to take care of all the passengers and look out for traffic safety as well. There is also pressure from the company because if there are any accidents, we bear the whole responsibility.' 'Sometimes the work affects your health - we have to get up very early and often don't get enough sleep.' The driver said that on his route, from Tai Po Fu Shin village to the Kowloon City pier, there were usually more passengers on the bus than the accepted capacity limit. He said drivers were often powerless to do anything about it. 'Between 3 pm and 7 pm is the worst time,' he said. 'Many people don't care what the bus driver says, and they will still push to get on the bus. There are always more people on the bus than the accepted limit. It's very hard for one person to control the passengers. 'I don't feel the bus company is improving the working situation of bus captains. They're not motivated to help improve our working conditions. Sometimes I have to speed to meet the schedule,' he said. Another driver said many drivers were afraid of sparking complaints from passengers if they spoke out against overcrowding - complaints that could see them sacked if the bus companies hears about it. 'In the mornings and in the afternoons in particular, when people are coming and going to work, there is a lot of traffic and so we have to speed up to get to the next stop on time,' he said. 'I usually speed up, especially when traffic is heavy, to at least 10 km/h over the limit. Usually if we have to speed, there is a lot more pressure on us because we have a lot of passengers on the bus and we are responsible for their lives.' Lee Cheuk Yan, spokesman for the Kowloon Motor Bus Staff Association and chief executive of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, said overcrowding was just one serious safety problem. He said it was unreasonable to expect bus captains to monitor passenger levels, which was the responsibility of the bus companies. 'There is a law against overcrowding and in fact the driver can be prosecuted for this. Overcrowding is dangerous and effects the breaking system and is very dangerous, especially if there are passengers standing up,' he said. 'It is also very stressful for the driver to monitor the situation, and will the passengers follow the advice of the bus driver anyway? Even if the bus driver tells them not to get on and they still do, the only thing for the bus driver to do is to stop the bus. 'Can you imagine the situation? The traffic jam that would be caused, the complaints from passengers and then the action of the disciplinary committee, which would reduce the wages of the driver. How can any sane person put his wages, his life and his well-being under threat. That's crazy. 'I think all the drivers are under tremendous stress. This has been going on for years - the half-hour lunch and the cutting of the running schedule is constantly happening. The situation has been serious for years and still there is no remedy. This is dangerous because if we don't have enough resting hours or breaks, the drivers are more prone to accidents. It's dangerous to both the health of workers and the public.' Mr Lee said drivers from the association were forced to meet the Transport Department earlier this week to voice their grievances because the Kowloon Motor Bus Company (KMBC) would not listen. KMBC public relations manager Winnie Ng said the company did not recognise the association and that staff could lodge complaints with the company individually if they wished. 'We do not recognise this association because we talk with other unions, the Kowloon Motor Bus Workers General Union and the Motor Transport General Union KMB branch,' she said. Yung Yuen-han, information officer at the Transport Department, said the department made guidelines for the operation of buses, but it was up to individual operators to maintain them. 'We just make the guidelines - and of course they will be different to the actual hours the drivers drive in reality.' While Mr Lee said Transport Department rules concerning drivers breaks were being breached, the KMBC denied the accusation. 'From what I know, we are following the guidelines as best we can. The guidelines are not law, they are just regulations - we have to follow them,' Ms Ng said. She said the KMBC had also set up a special road safety committee to help drivers suffering from stress.