Operator investigating complaint from ‘humiliated’ barred passenger.

A West Auckland mother had to push her child in a pram more than 2km uphill after a bus driver refused her entry on a bus following three days of arguments over the stroller.

Software developer Shravani Bompelli, 31, said she was left frustrated and humiliated after the NZ Bus driver loudly challenged her over bringing the pram on board last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as she was trying to make her way home after collecting her daughter, Sameeksha, 3, from daycare.

She had previously not encountered any problems with bringing the pram on board, Mrs Bompelli said, but last Wednesday the driver said she could only take the bus - route 154, which she catches from Bruce McLaren Rd to Parrs Cross Rd around 5.15pm - if she folded the pram down.

"Normally we put the brake down and it's fine. But if the bus is too crowded we wouldn't be doing that, we will fold it to make it easier for everyone," she said. "But that was not the case. It's a short distance ... there was no other pram on board or anything else, I could easily get in."

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An argument ensued, but she got on the bus anyway.

"When I was getting off he stops me again to argue, he says, 'she's not even a baby, you don't need a pram'," Mrs Bompelli said.

"But daycare has a bag [for Sameeksha], I have my own bag, it was a rainy day so I have two jackets on me, I have a little girl to hold and I can't fold a pram, pick it up with the bags and everything. The bus is not full or anything, why do I need to do all this? But he made a really big scene."

The next day the same thing happened, and when Sameeksha asked why she was arguing with the driver, Mrs Bompelli said she dismissed it by calling the driver "an idiot".

But on Friday, the driver stopped the bus and got out to speak to her, accusing her of calling him "a bad word that starts with 'A'," and refused to let Mrs Bompelli on the bus.

She complained to Auckland Transport each night when she got home, and on Friday she was referred to the operator, NZ Bus. A manager apologised, but declined to discuss what kind of disciplinary action may be taken.

"There should be something that we could be reassured that they're doing something, they are taking it seriously," she said, adding that "three days [of] not providing a service is a really big thing". She wanted to raise the issue because: "I don't want any other woman with kids to suffer the same kind of situation."

Darek Koper, regional operations manager at NZ Bus, said it was policy to ask passengers to fold down prams as a safety precaution if there wasn't enough space, and it was investigating the circumstances of Mrs Bompelli's complaint.

The process, and any outcome, were confidential, he said. However, the driver's written account of events differed from Mrs Bompelli's.

On Monday, a duty supervisor travelled on the 154 bus to meet with Mrs Bompelli, Mr Koper said, to explain the safety reasons around folding pushchairs down during travel.

"She doesn't seem to accept that she needs to fold the pram, so the duty supervisor demonstrated to her what happens if she blocks the aisle, but she's unwilling to accept that this is a safety requirement," he said.

Drivers were trained to help assist wheelchair users, the elderly and parents with prams to get on to the bus safely, he said.

If the investigation found the driver had made inappropriate comments to Mrs Bompelli it would be dealt with "appropriately", but internally, he said.

The rules

• Both NZ Bus and Auckland Transport publish the same requirements online:
"For safety reasons pushchairs may be required to be folded down before boarding to ensure they can be safely stowed."

• Buses are unable to carry large mobility scooters and some larger pushchairs for space reasons, it says, providing the following size restrictions: Maximum length 1200mm; max width 700mm; max weight 240kg (combined weight of wheelchair and user).