Wigan buses suffer 11 vandal attacks within weeks
Stone-throwing yobs have been putting lives at risk on Wigan’s bus routes, shock new figures show.
Windows have been smashed as vandals - mainly thought to be teenagers - lobbed rocks and other missiles at passing services.
No fewer than 11 incidents of criminal damage, attempted vandalism and anti-social behaviour were reported in the borough between the beginning of the year and February 24 - the second highest number in the city-region, new figures from the Greater Manchester TravelSafe Partnership (TSP) reveal.
The partnership says it is taking swift action, reviewing footage to identify those involved and using combined operator intelligence to target patrols in the areas where incidents are most likely to occur.
With most attacks believed to involve youths, the TSP is also carrying out educational work in targeted schools, using driver interviews to reinforce the human impact of the incidents.
Since the turn of the year, the TSP has recorded 49 separate incidents of criminal damage to buses, with many being a result of various objects, including bricks, baseball bats and scooters thrown at moving vehicles.
The latest incident, which took place yesterday evening on the Bridgehall Estate in Stockport, saw a missile thrown through the window of the 328 Stagecoach service, hitting the driver on the back of the head.
In another incident a bus driver required medical attention after he was hit by glass smashed by a missile thrown from the side of the road, while operators have also reported incidents of passengers being injured.
TSP records show there were 13 reported incidents borough buses or at Wigan and Leigh’s bus stations between the beginning of the year and February 24.
Some record drunk and disorderly people anti-social behaviour but a number mention the throwing of missiles and criminal damage.
Vehicles on Leigh’s guided busway are worst hit but there are also reports of attacks on Sherwood Drive, Norley, Broad O’th’ Lane in Shevington and the Garrett Hall Lane estate in Tyldesley.
The attacks on vehicles have resulted in services being diverted or withdrawn from certain routes, impacting the wider community by potentially isolating those reliant on buses for essential travel.
The TSP has also recorded 62 incidents of criminal damage to the Metrolink network, including 31 incidents of smashed tram windows and 31 incidents of damage to shelters and validators. Vehicles had to be removed from service following these incidents, reducing the number of trams available to operate on the network.
Greater Manchester’s Deputy Mayor for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice, Bev Hughes, said: “It is outrageous to hear of these appalling incidents and my thoughts are with the injured bus driver and affected passengers.
“The damage has resulted in services being diverted or withdrawn, which then has a wider impact on our communities who rely on them for essential journeys and for key worker jobs.
“Public safety is of paramount important to us, and the TravelSafe Partnership staff are continuing to keep our transport system safe and moving. Committing crime and disregarding restrictions will not be tolerated and action is underway to identify those responsible.”
Inspector Jon Middleton of GMP’s Transport Unit said: “Our Transport Unit and local policing teams are currently investigating these reports and take a zero-tolerance approach to this kind of behaviour that puts our communities at risk.
“Antisocial behaviour on public transport is not acceptable and can have a major effect on other passengers. We will continue to work hard with partners to ensure that people feel safe and can travel without intimidation or feeling threatened by the behaviour of others. I would like to thank the majority of our communities who respect those that help our transport network run and would appeal to everyone to be considerate to others and to continue reporting crime to ourselves.”
The Partnership shares data and intelligence and, thanks to bodycams, call points on all trams and stops, over 2000 CCTV cameras across the Metrolink network and a 24/7 control room, helps coordinate a quick response to live incidents.
Matt Rawlinson, Diamond Bus North West Deputy Managing Director, said: “As a local bus company, like many other businesses, we are struggling to recover from the financial impact of Covid-19 BUT we are positive about growing bus services in Greater Manchester and we have continued with our £3.6m investment in new vehicles.
“The safety of our staff and customers is not a position we want to be in but unless we can work with the community to put a stop to these dangerous acts of vandalism we will have no choice but to remove services when incidents occur.”
Stagecoach Managing Director Lee Wasnidge said: “The safety and wellbeing of our staff and customers is always our absolute priority. These irresponsible incidents can be both dangerous and distressing to anyone involved. We are working closely with TravelSafe partners to prevent these incidents and identify those responsible.”
During the pandemic the TSP has already run 52 days of action in 28 different locations across the region to remind passengers about the importance of wearing a face covering and other safe travel measures.
The partnership has also distributed more than 7,500 free face coverings to passengers on the tram and bus networks, run marketing campaigns and carried out targeted work with schools to increase compliance amongst young people in specific areas.
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