The bus that crashed into the Montague Street bridge in South Melbourne in 2016 was the second bus from the same company to have hit the notorious structure, a trial has heard.
On Wednesday the County Court was told a Bacchus Marsh Coaches bus, 3.9 metres high, crashed into the three-metre clearance bridge in March 2006, and some passengers were injured.
Prosecutors allege Gold Bus Ballarat bus driver Jack Aston was criminally negligent in failing to take heed of five warning signs alerting motorists of Montague Street bridge’s low clearance before he drove a 3.6 metre-high bus into it at 10.22am on February 22, 2016.
Six of the 14 passengers on the bus suffered serious injuries including head and spinal fractures, broken collarbones and facial lacerations. Mr Aston was also seriously injured.
Bacchus Marsh Coaches and Gold Bus Ballarat are owned by the same company, the court heard, and at times share policies, buses and drivers, but are based at different depots.
Mr Aston, 55, has pleaded not guilty to six counts of negligently causing serious injury. His lawyer has told the jury Mr Aston had never driven on Montague Street before and his task to transport conference guests from the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre was his third job that day.
The court heard that the company didn’t adopt a policy for drivers to avoid the area despite the similar crash a decade earlier.
Ross Huntington, the general manager at Gold Bus Ballarat at the time of both incidents, said drivers would have been advised to avoid Montague Street after the 2006 crash but no official change in policy was written down.
"At the time I don’t recall, but it would have been spoken about with the drivers," he told court.
Asked if in hindsight it would have been appropriate to have adopted a written policy after the 2006 crash for drivers not to use Montague Street, Mr Huntington said: "Yes, in hindsight, I agree."
Mr Aston began working for Gold Bus Ballarat in 2013.
Mr Huntington said he didn’t mention his knowledge of the 2006 crash to police investigating the 2016 incident because an officer "didn’t ask me the question".
Gold Bus Ballarat had set routes for picking up students before and after school, but Mr Huntington said the company had drivers plot their own routes on charter trips. The company didn’t provide drivers with GPS programs or street directories, but they could use their own.
"I would think they investigate the route they travel so they know how to get to Point A to Point B," Mr Huntington said.
Mr Aston began work at 4.30am on February 22 and ferried V/Line train passengers from stations to Melbourne, then took a group from a Melbourne hotel to the conference centre, the court heard.
Taking the group of 14 from the centre to South Melbourne, St Kilda and Albert Park was Mr Aston's third job that day.
Mr Huntington said he and the driver discussed the jobs the previous day.
The trial continues.