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Last Updated: Friday, 29 August, 2003, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Vandals threaten bus services
Cracked window on bus
Bus vandals are threatning bus services
Jobs and vital bus services could be lost unless action is taken to curb attacks on staff and vandalism, according to officials.

In one of the most recent incidents, a driver in Erskine was shot in the head with an air gun last month.

Several services in danger areas have already been suspended or diverted - particularly in the evenings - because of attacks.

Hooligans trashed 8,000 windows and 18,000 seats last year - as well as injuring more than 100 passengers and more than 60 staff.

The growing menace of bus thugs is so serious that talks have been taking place between Strathclyde Police and bus chiefs in an effort to prevent timetable cuts.

Among possible ways of dealing with the hooligans are plans for police officers travelling on buses and back-up staff for drivers.

Chairman of the Strathclyde Passenger Transport Authority, Councillor Alistair Watson, warned that country areas - particularly in North Lanarkshire - could be "completely isolated" if routes get the axe.

He said: "We are seriously concerned about the possible withdrawal of these vulnerable services.

UNION CHIEF
Tougher sentences must be part of the process, as well as education
Jimmy Farrelly
union official
"People just may become isolated because of this mindless thuggery."

Cllr Watson added: "We must protect these communities, we must protect these lifelines. This is something we take very seriously indeed.

"If I can give any assurance to these communities who are fearing their bus services will be withdrawn, it is that we'll be doing everything we possibly can to maintain their services."

Transport giant First Bus runs 1,000 vehicles in Glasgow and spokesman Alan Pert described the level of attacks as "fairly low but quite worrying".

He said: "We are certainly looking at redirecting vehicles from hotspot areas, where vandalism is occurring regularly."

Union leader Jimmy Farrelly, of the TGWU, stressed that the menace is not confined to the west of Scotland.

Short term

He maintained that there have been as many as 100 acts of violence on buses in Edinburgh in the past four months alone.

More severe punishments were "critical", he argued.

Mr Farrelly said: "Tougher sentences must be part of the process, as well as education. We have to get into schools and other areas to ensure the message gets home that this is just not acceptable.

"There are many measures that can be taken in the short term. In terms of the technology that's now available, there are many things that can be done to ensure the driver is working in a safe environment.

"We've had some encouraging feedback from the Scottish Executive that it would be willing to fund a project that would hopefully ensure drivers are safe at their work."

In Lothian and the Borders, methods of trying to catch vandals have included sending decoy buses with plain clothes officers into the worst hit areas, followed by unmarked police cars.


SEE ALSO:
Police act over bus attacks
04 Aug 03  |  Scotland
Bus driver shot with airgun
02 Jul 03  |  Scotland
Bus driver hit by pellet
12 Mar 03  |  Scotland


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