Bus drivers could be killed by violent passengers if they are not protected from drunken attacks, union leaders have claimed.

Drivers in Brighton and Hove face daily abuse and are regularly assaulted, according to manual workers’ union GMB.

One worker was punched repeatedly eight months ago and has still not returned to work.

The GMB is now demanding protective screens on all buses to protect drivers from assaults.

Stewards say nine out of ten bus drivers have been assaulted and without the screens they are “sitting ducks”.

At the moment only 150 out of a fleet of 250 buses have the screens.

GMB organiser Rob Macey said: “We think some of the assaults have been so serious lives could have been lost.

“In our opinion it is only a matter of time before that does happen.”

In the latest attack, on February 23, a driver was attacked by someone who was angry because he thought the bus had stopped in the wrong place at Palmeira Square in Hove.

The driver was punched in the face and still carries a mark a month later.

Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company’s management say all new buses are fitted with the security screens but claim they cannot fit them to old vehicles.

Protective screens are mandatory on night-time routes.

Roger French, managing director of Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company, said fitting protective screens in old models of bus does not work because it creates glare in the drivers’ mirrors and rattle continually.

But he said the fitting of CCTV has led to a fall in the number of assaults to four in the last six months.

He added:“People know they are going to be caught on camera. CCTV has reduced the number of assaults considerably.

“The idea that we just don’t care is nonsense.

“We are doing a lot, we care a lot about our staff, we are investing in CCTV and fitting screens.”