Group Barraqueiro – the multi-million euro transport giant that runs at least 14 bus companies, involving more than 2,700 vehicles – is coming in for increasing criticism as it is revealed their in-house inquiries into last week’s fatal accidents will not be ready anytime soon.
With newspaper reports alluding to Barraqueiro’s drivers being pressured to work extra hours, relatives of one of last week’s fatalities say they are upset – and bemused – by the “complete absence of contact” from either the bus company or Barraqueiro itself.
“No one has spoken to us,” Maria Conceição Teixeira, wife of José Moura who died in Friday’s crash near Aldomôvar told reporters over the weekend.
“I don’t know whether the accident is the responsibility of Renex, or Barraqueiro. I only know that two days since the accident we haven’t so much as received a telephone call.”
Moura’s brother Júlio was equally scathing, saying: “My sister-in-law was informed by the police on Saturday at midday. In other words, almost 24 hours after the disaster. And now no-one is giving an explanation, or asking if people who have lost a husband or father need anything.”
The Resident tried repeatedly to get a comment from Renex or Barraqueiro, but on Monday morning the telephone lines were all ringing unattended.
In the Algarve however, we managed to speak to a spokesperson for Frota Azul – the Algarve-based bus company owned by Barraqueiro that had one of its fleet involved in in the tragedy that killed four Dutch tourists on the A2 near Paderne last Wednesday.
Asking the woman if we could expect the company’s in-house report on the incident this week, she said: “No, these things take time.”
Pressed as to how much time, she replied: “I have no idea, but it will not be soon”.
As to press reports on Barraqueiro drivers working too many hours, the woman said: “That is what they are saying.
“Police interviewed the driver involved in Wednesday’s accident and they did not find him to have worked excess hours”, she told us.
“People can say what they like” was the only answer the woman appeared prepared to give regarding allegations that drivers are repeatedly made to work extra hours.
Meantime, new details are emerging over the last crash that killed three people – two Portuguese and one German resident, Astrid Scheubert, 49.
It is still unclear whether Astrid Scheubert lived in the Algarve, but as she caught the bus in Lagos on Friday evening, it is possible she lived in the western Algarve.
A friend spoke to Correio da Manhã on Sunday, saying she could not believe Astrid was dead.
“She was a beautiful woman who had a fantastic smile.”
Born in Cologne, Astrid is described as having worked in tourism, and been “in love with Portugal”.
As the nation digested this sudden leap in bus crash fatalities and injuries, another Barraqueiro bus was reported to have suffered brake failure on Sunday on the EN8 travelling from Malveira da Serra into Lisbon.
There were no injuries but the bus was damaged as it “lost control” and hit a wall.