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December 13, 2011

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Heroic bus driver gets 5,000 yuan

A bus driver hailed as a hero for managing to bring his bus to a safe stop when he was struck by a brain hemorrhage on Sunday was awarded 5,000 yuan (US$786) for "protecting passenger safety" by the bus company yesterday.

The 54-year-old driver, Xie Wenlong, remains in critical condition in a local hospital.

While praising the driver's heroism, the Bashi Company, the city's urban bus operator, expressed concern about the shortage of new young drivers in the profession, known for its high work pressure.

Zhang Biwei, a top official with the Bashi group, sent the 5,000 yuan award to the hospital yesterday. The award was set up in Shanghai in June, when Bashi put 1 million yuan into a pool to encourage bus workers to act well during emergencies.

The prize was initiated after a female bus driver kept controlling the vehicle until it stopped while being beaten by a man who missed a stop in June.

During the Sunday incident, Xie, driving a No. 933 bus, suddenly suffered a brain hemorrhage that made him pass out but still managed to stop the bus along the road. The ticket seller later found Xie "looked pale when slumping on the wheel."

More than 20 passengers were onboard.

Xie, who had been driving No. 933 for nine years, worked hard and was kind to everyone, said his colleagues.

"We hope he will be fine," said an official, surnamed Wu, with the bus fleet, "Like Xie, the middle-aged drivers are our major force."

This group, between 40 and 50, face high work pressure but often are in poor health, according to a recent survey conducted by the operator itself. Visual impairment, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease are common among older city bus drivers, said He Fang, a spokesman for Bashi.

Research by the bus company found that 2,337 drivers - 8 percent of the 28,428 bus drivers across the city - are older than 55. A survey of 465 of the drivers in this age group showed that 81 percent suffer from various ailments, while 68.1 percent want to retire before they reach 60, the required age for retirement.

"The aging problem is a challenge," said He.

"Young people are not willing to join because of the low pay, low social status and hardships," said one bus official.

A Shanghai bus driver is paid 58,000 yuan a year - an increase from 46,000 yuan last year.

A city bus driver, in his 50s, said that some young recruits quit the job after a day or two. "They just couldn't stand the boring routine, strict regulations and tough work patterns," said the driver.

Bashi said workers get annual health checks and are given doctor's advice.

But many of the aged and unhealthy drivers remain on the force, unwilling to retire or rest, experts said.

The operator, dependent on government subsides, will try to increase the salary to attract more young hands, said Lu Gaosheng, a spokesman for the city's traffic management administration.


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