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‘They just kicked me when I was down’ Dundee bus crash driver wins £16,700 claim for unfair dismissal

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A former bus driver who crashed into a parked car in the city centre says he feels vindicated after an employment tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed by National Express Dundee.

The company now has to pay more than £16,700 to Graeme Brannan after the tribunal ruled they did not properly investigate the circumstances into why his vehicle ploughed into a parked car in Crichton Street, causing further damage to two vans.

Mr Brannan was praised at the time for managing to avert injury or further catastrophe to more than 30 passengers on his bus. But he was then blamed for the accident by the company and sacked, despite an independent investigator deciding the bus’s throttle had stuck.

The company’s own investigation ruled Mr Brannan had been at fault and dismissed him.

The crash occurred as the number 32 bus took the corner from the High Street at around 3.15pm on April 13 last year.

Following the tribunal’s judgment, Mr Brannan said he felt he had been badly let down by the company.

”They didn’t give a monkey’s about me. I saved between 30 and 40 passengers from injury nobody was hurt at all and the passengers thanked me,” he told The Courier.

”They asked how I was and so did the police, but nobody from National Express asked me how I was.

”I was in shock but I wasn’t given any counselling or anything and they just kicked me when I was down. My mother died from cancer three days after they sacked me.”

The tribunal heard Mr Brannan’s bus crashed into the rear of the parked car, causing a man to jump for his life. The driver of the parked car had been loading his boot as the single decker ploughed towards him and Mr Brannan’s shouting alerted him to the danger.

Mr Brannan blamed the crash on the throttle pedal of his bus jamming as he prepared to set off on his route to Kirkton. An inspector from the Government’s Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) inspected the bus and identified the throttle fault as the cause.

However, the bus was towed back to the company’s Dock Street depot where the engineering manager drove it round the yard a few times and ”couldn’t replicate the fault.”

The bus company concluded Mr Brannan had caused the accident by inadvertently pressing the throttle pedal instead of the footbrake pedal and doing so while not wearing his prescription glasses.

The tribunal noted there was a need to clarify the evidence of the VOSA inspector, but rather than doing so with that person, the bus company official chose to speak only to the company’s engineering manager.

The view that Mr Brannan had caused the crash and near tragedy was upheld and Mr Brannan was dismissed on the grounds of misconduct.

Tribunal chairman Mr I McFatridge concluded: ”In the view of the tribunal, the investigation by the respondents was outwith the range of acceptable investigations which should be carried out by a reasonable employer.”

The key question had been whether the throttle had jammed or whether the accident could have been caused by the driver’s inattention.

”The vehicle was inspected immediately after the accident by an independent inspector and if there was any question about the interpretation of the report, any reasonable employer would have contacted the VOSA inspector,” the judgment stated.

The tribunal ruled unanimously that Mr Brannan’s dismissal was unfair and National Express Dundee were ordered to pay him £16,742.80.

Phil Smith, managing director of National Express Dundee said: ”We don’t comment on any individual cases which are a matter between the company and its employees.”

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