Warning that Edinburgh bus rock attacks could lead to serious injury or death as drivers scared to go to work with incidents on ‘nightly basis’

Police have warned vandals that throwing rocks at buses across the city could lead to serious injury or death - after eight buses serving one of the city’s hospitals were targeted.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 5:47 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 5:48 pm

Nine windows were smashed in buses as they travelled along Old Dalkeith Road or Gilmerton Road between 7.25pm and 8.50pm on Monday. This resulted in the removal of services.

Lothian Buses chiefs slammed the “appalling” behaviour and were disappointed that vandals had attacked buses serving the Royal Infirmary at a time when key workers were either starting or finishing their shifts.

Pictures shared online showed a brick and shards of glass on the floor of one bus, with the brick evidently given enough force to pierce the opposite side of the vehicle’s interior wall. Many people highlighted that a wheelchair user or a buggy could have easily been hit.

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Lothian and Police Scotland have been working together to tackle recent antisocial behavuour on and around buses in Edinburgh.

Chief Inspector Sarah Taylor, local area commander for north-west Edinburgh, said: “A number of buses were subjected to damage with large stones thrown at widows. This is completely senseless behaviour and could lead to serious injury or even death. I would ask those who did this, how would you feel if it was your family member sitting at that window that smashed, or your friend driving the vehicle that was hit with a rock?

“This behaviour must stop. We will continue to investigate these incidents and seek to ensure offenders are held accountable for their actions.”

Chief Insp Taylor said police have been working with Lothian Buses to tackle the surge in antisocial behaviour in the past three weeks through Operation Proust.

Officers have been patrolling on buses, in vehicles, and on foot in areas affected and have so far identified and charged 18 young people.

Police have also engaged with more than 140 young people to ensure relevant safety and prevention messaging is delivered.

Other measures have included visits to parents of youths identified as being involved and warning letters issued.

Chief Insp Taylor added: “We need the support of parents and guardians, along with our local communities, to work collaboratively on this. If you see this behaviour, or congregations at bus stops causing a disturbance, I would urge you to report this to us so we can investigate.

“I’d like to thank Lothian Buses for their continued support and reassure their staff, along with the public, that we will not tolerate this in our city.”

Last weekend, Lothian suspended evening services in Clermiston following the assault of a bus driver in the Drum Brae Drive area. Police later confirmed that a 14-year-old boy was charged in connection with the assault.

Last Friday, the bus company and police shared a hard-hitting video appeal from a driver who had glass shatter into his eye after a rock smashed through the window. He is also suffering from the psychological effects of the incident and is speaking to a counsellor in the hope it can help him return to work.

One Lothian employee, who did not want to be named, said vandalism to the buses does tend to spike during school holidays but said: “Since lockdown, it’s snowballed into something we have never seen before and it’s happening on almost a nightly basis.”

Fears over curfews

The employee said there were also vandalism incidents reported in Balerno last weekend and that buses have also been targeted in places like Danderhall and Portobello and that it’s hard to predict where it will happen next.

They said in a worst case scenario, they fear Lothian might have to start suspending evening services on a rolling basis if the behaviour persists.

They said: “I don’t know if they would do that but a lot of drivers are getting to the point where they are genuinely scared about driving at night, because that’s when it is worse. You could potentially have rolling closures of ‘no go’ areas. It’s never been this bad all over Edinburgh before.

“So many people rely on us, especially now, to go about their daily lives. If they do get to the point where they look at some sort of curfew, the effect is not just felt by Lothian but also on people in general.

“Drivers are legitimately scared to go into certain areas. The back shift staff are genuinely looking really bothered by what is going on.

“We are just trying to get people to talk to their kids and make them realise that throwing a brick can potentially take a life.”

Sarah Boyd, operations director for Lothian, said earlier on Tuesday she was “appalled” that colleagues had been subjected to such “irresponsible and dangerous acts of vandalism.”

She said: “I am even more disappointed that the individuals responsible chose to target buses serving the Royal Infirmary Hospital at a time when key workers, who rely heavily on our services, were either starting or finishing their shifts.

“As a direct result of these incidents, we were forced to withdraw our services from this area for a period of time to ensure the safety of our drivers and customers and we will not hesitate to take similar action again if necessary.

“The lasting damage from these reckless acts can be life-changing for everyone involved and we continue to work with Police Scotland to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.

“We would like to thank our customers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Earlier this month, a Lothian bus driver was injured in Niddrie when the front window was smashed by an object, resulting in shards of glass covering him. A 15-year-old boy was charged in connection with the incident.

In late February, three children were charged with antisocial behaviour and public damages offences in the southwest of the city, after police stepped up patrols on public transport. Those involved were alleged to have smashed a bus window and thrown poo at a staff member.

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