Vandals and abusive passengers causing ‘chaos’ on bus network

Troublemakers causing “chaos” on bus services could be banned from the network amid escalating concerns for staff and passenger safety.

Bus operator R Robertson & Son has warned that a minority of young people had become so abusive and disrespectful that drivers would have to start refusing entry or abandoning services.

Managing director Sonia Robertson said the problem had been fast deteriorating since the pandemic and was now widespread across the network, involving daily incidents.

She said the “straw that broke the camel’s back” came on Saturday evening when six youths on the 21 from Lerwick had to be reported to the police after trying to smash an emergency window and abusing the driver when he asked them to stop.

Posting on Facebook after the incident she invited those involved to make a formal apology, warning that services would cease to operate if the poor behaviour continued.

Having since been contacted by some of the youths’ parents, Mrs Robertson said she felt her post had achieved the desired effect.

But with similar incidents happening on a daily basis, the managing director said she felt the need to highlight what was happening as so many folk seemed oblivious to the scale of the problem.

Over recent months, she said more than £6,000’s worth of vandalism has been carried out to her buses, with seats burned and knives used to slash seatbelts.

Graffiti including swastikas, foul language and images depicting genitalia has been daubed over the furniture – and some of the youngest perpetrators have been identified in primary schools.

“Beyond cleaning, repairs, and costs, it’s the abuse to our staff, their safety, and the implications on safety and comfort to other passengers,” she said.

“It’s hardly an enjoyable experience when groups of youths are intimidating passengers, barging past and pushing mothers with pushchairs and shouting profanities at the driver.”

“Throwing litter, food, plant pots, covering the seats and windows with Vaseline, tearing sanitary items for tossing in the vehicles, are all experiences this year alone.”

The situation on board the Lerwick number one town service became so bad in January that a blanket ban on Anderson High School pupils had to be introduced.

Mrs Robertson said bairns boarded the bus in the afternoon and caused “absolute chaos”.

She believes the lockdown has had such a traumatic effect on some young people that their behaviour has been drastically altered.

Mrs Robertson, who has been involved in the family business for more than 20 years, has also highlighted the effect of free travel cards, which were introduced last year for people aged five to 21.

While the bus passes have provided greater freedom for young people, Mrs Robertson said the increased travel had been accompanied by worsening behaviour. 

She said the issue had been reported to the SIC’s education department – but claimed they were “powerless” to intervene because it was a public bus service rather than a dedicated school route.

The company has also been in touch with the council’s transport team – with one member of staff reportedly having travelled undercover on a bus to witness the problem first hand.

Mrs Robertson said they had been “horrified” by the experience.

Unless the situation improves, she said the company would start refusing travel, banning persistent offenders and calling on the police to remove abusive passengers.

Mrs Robertson said she hoped raising awareness of the situation could bring about improvements for the benefit of all involved.

“This is not a pointing the blame exercise, this is about creating awareness – we need the message of acceptable behaviour and expectations to be understood, then see this play out in life.

“If questions can get raised from awareness, if parents are more checked-in with their kids because of it, then that is progress for all, and everyone benefits, including the kids.

“We cannot tar all young travellers with the same brush either, we know this, we have good ones too that travel without any issues regularly.”


Add Your Comment
  • craig cunningham

    • May 4th, 2023 20:41

    get rid of free travel for under 21s then[and restore it in England for 60-66] [im 63] would move to Scotland too but still have to avoid yobs..just they try it in North Korea and see how far theyd get!!! Mke them an their parents pay for and repair the vandalism.And any that throw stones at buses or trains should be arrested for attempted murder rathe than simple vandalism


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