Gold Bus operator could face $1.5m fine for hitting Montague Street bridge

The company that operates the bus that slammed into the notorious Montague Street bridge last year could be fined as much as $1.5 million after it was charged by Transport Safety Victoria.

A dozen people were injured when the Gold Bus operated by Bacchus Marsh Coaches hit the three-metre-high South Melbourne bridge on February 22. The bus was 3.8m high.

It took firefighters nearly an hour to free four people trapped inside the vehicle.

Four passengers suffered serious injuries, one with broken bones and another spent three days in intensive care. Twelve people in all, including the driver, were taken to hospital.

At the time, Metropolitan Fire Brigade commander Andrew O'Connell said the ordeal would have been "absolutely terrifying" for the people on board.

"Luckily ... they all ducked their heads and closed their eyes to keep themselves out of trouble. And I think that's actually helped them remarkably keep uninjured," he said.

Tape was used to cover the branding on the side of the bus after the incident as the scene was cleared.

Gold Bus Ballarat director Matthew Baird defended the decision, saying it was usual practice after a crash for the company to protect their brand.

"We are out to protect our brand and make sure we don't tarnish our brand," Mr Baird said at the time.

The passengers had been travelling to see Melbourne landmarks as part of an international tourism conference.

Transport Safety Victoria, which has charged the bus company and two of its officers, alleges that "those accused knew, or ought reasonably to have known, about the risk posed by low-clearance bridges and available means to eliminate or reduce this risk."

According to the Bus Safety Act 2009, bus service operators must ensure the safety of their service by eliminating or reducing "risks to safety so far as reasonably possible".

Since the incident, the company had made efforts to mitigate the risk posed by low clearance bridges, but TSV will allege these should have been in place before the incident.

A filing hearing for the case will be held in the Magistrates' Court on October 17, with the maximum penalty for individuals set at $285,426 and for the company $1,427,130.