Violent crime and antisocial behaviour on public transport is on the rise, with Metrolink services and Greater Manchester’s train stations both suffering a spike in reported incidents since 2010.
Violent offences, classified as ranging from low level verbal abuse to more serious assaults and robbery committed at Piccadilly, Victoria, Oxford Road, Deansgate and Salford Crescent stations rose by nearly 50%, from 80 in 2010 to 117 in 2012.
British Transport Police Detective Chief Inspector Malcolm McKinnon said it was disappointing to see a rise, blaming it on an increase in abusive behaviour because of more intrusive revenue protection policies on the rail network.
“Improving the safety and security of all who travel or work upon the railway is a key objective for BTP and officers will be out and about across Manchester during the coming weeks and months to keep all passengers and staff as safe as possible,” he said.
Reported incidents of alleged crime and antisocial behaviour on Metrolink services have also leapt by 33%, rising from 361 over 2010-2011 to 480 over 2011-2012.
This contrasts with a Metrolink customer satisfaction survey from June 2012, which stated that 88% of service users felt either safe or very safe both on vehicles and at stops.
But the picture is not all bleak, with incidents on both general and school bus services seeing a substantial decrease of almost 49% decrease from 1463 to 755 over the same periods.
Bus stations and TfGM bus shelters also both saw a small decrease.
Bus journeys account for 80% of all public transport journeys made in Greater Manchester, with about 220 million passenger journeys made by bus each year.
Stagecoach, one of the largest bus companies in the UK and one of Manchester’s main bus service operators, said safety and security of customers is a priority.
“Crime and antisocial behaviour on bus services is low and the vast majority of the 100 million journeys on our buses in Manchester each year take place without incident,” a spokesman said.
“However, we appreciate that even the fear of crime and unacceptable behaviour can deter people from using public transport.”
All new Stagecoach buses are fitted with CCTV and the company work closely with local police on targeted campaigns, including allowing officers to travel in plain clothes on our services.
“As well as reporting offenders to the police, we may also temporarily or permanently ban individuals from travelling with us following incidents of misconduct,” the spokesman added.
But a bus driver, who wished to remain anonymous, said that violence towards bus staff can be a familiar part of the job.
“It’s quite common up here, but more often or not the punter that hits the driver comes off worse, then gets arrested,” he said.
“In the year or so I’ve been driving for the company I work for, I’ve got out of my cab several times to deal with idiots, and three or four of those times have resulted in fisticuffs.”
Another female bus driver said that one incident of aggression tipped her over the edge and forced her to respond with violence.
“About two years ago I started a very bad phase in my life of depression and tears every day,” she said.
“This particular night was really bad and I just felt awful.
“A man in his early twenties got on the bus, he was extremely drunk and demanded I take him several stops without paying.
“Normally if I realise there could be trouble I just let passengers like that on, on out of fear for my life and concern for genuine passengers.
“This bloke was really gobby and vicious so I stayed well in my cab and told him to get off, but he refused point blank.”
“I’m not actually known for my temper, and it’s rare when I lose it.
“But the delicate state of mind I was in at the time pushed me over the edge and I flew at him.
“I’m only 5’1 and arthritic but I raised my first and smacked him straight in the face, sending him flying backwards.”
Detective Chief Inspector McKinnon said it was important to view the figures against an overall backdrop of falling crime, with British Transport Police in the North West seeing a reduction in recorded crime levels in each of the past seven years.
In November MM reported a horrifying incident which caught a man launching an aggressive homophobic tirade against a couple on their way to Manchester from Blackpool, with a YouTube video of the incident causing outrage.
The man was arrested after the train arrived at Manchester Piccadilly, but was discharged with a caution.
Following the incident, a BTP spokesman said they would continue to work with train operating companies to take action against those who negatively impact on the lives of others.