Crackdown on ‘post-Covid bounce’ in anti-social behaviour on transport urged

A crackdown on anti-social behaviour by football fans and others on trains and buses has been urged by the head of the body which helps co-ordinate 70 per cent of Scotland’s public transport journeys.

Sunday, 24th July 2022, 3:08 pm

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) chief executive Valerie Davidson said she was determined to tackle what she described as a personal “bugbear” to help attract more passengers and ensure women and girls knew public transport was safe.

She said Scotland was suffering elements of a “post-Covid bounce in anti-social behaviour” with incidents spreading from weekends across the week.

Ms Davidson is seeking greater action by taking the lead role on anti-social behaviour in the newly-formed Strategic Safer Transport Group, which also includes British Transport Police (BTP), ScotRail, Network Rail Scotland and Transport Scotland.

Broken panels on the entrance canopy of St Enoch Subway station in Glasgow. Picture: The Scotsman

She also wants public transport better designed, with bright, airy spaces and more CCTV to make passengers feel safer, especially women and girls.

Ms Davidson was appointed in December to lead SPT, which also runs the Glasgow Subway and the city’s Buchanan Bus Station – Scotland's busiest.

She said: "One of my bugbears is anti-social behaviour on public transport. It’s a big issue.

"Particularly in Scotland, you’ve got the combination of anti-social behaviour, alcohol and football.

British Transport Police urged passengers to report any incident "to help us to build a picture of what is happening and take appropriate action.” Picture: John Devlin

"After football [matches], and it doesn’t matter which club it is, not just Glasgow clubs, there’s always issues.

"It has got to the stage where we have had to disrupt [Subway and bus] services and we’ve had damage at the bus station – even this week there were smashed glass panels at St Enoch [Subway station], which will cost around £4,000 to get fixed.”

Ibrox Subway station, near Rangers’ stadium, has had to be closed on police request after fights broke out at a pub opposite.

There have also been fights at the bus station which have led to serious injuries, while stances have been sealed off as crime scenes.

In one of the latest incidents there, a 45-year-old man was charged in connection with a serious assault early on Thursday.

Meantime, bus services have been suspended after stones were thrown at vehicles – which has also happened in Edinburgh and West Lothian – and laser pens pointed at drivers.

Ms Davidson said: "Across Europe, there seems to be some kind of post-Covid bounce in anti-social behaviour and we’re seeing elements of it.

"It’s more than it was pre-Covid.

"Traditionally, it used to be at weekends – Thursday, Friday, Saturday night.

"Now we’re seeing a bit more of a spread across the week.

"It disrupts passengers, it disrupts services, it causes mayhem, it damages things.

"Collectively, we need to come together to make sure there’s a consistent message that it’s not acceptable – there is a lot to be done.

"Anyone who thinks that’s acceptable doesn’t have a place in public transport.”

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Ms Davidson’s concerns echo those of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, which has threatened to boycott ScotRail lines such as Glasgow-Balloch because of the scale of the problem.

The union has produced a chilling dossier of incidents that included staff being threatened with knives, makeshift flame throwers and fire extinguishers.

BTP Scottish figures showed anti-social behaviour among under-18s jumped by 63 per cent in the year to March compared to pre-Covid 2019-20, while threatening and abusive behaviour overall was up by nearly one third, but the force said there had been a reduction in incidents since.

A ScotRail "travel safe team” formed to tackle anti-social behaviour was attacked on a train in April, with one of them needing hospital treatment.

Chief operating officer Joanne Maguire said she had been "absolutely horrified" by the incident but praised the team’s resilience in recovering as "quite breathtaking" and said there were plans to increase the number of teams deployed.

She said: “Everyone has the right to go about their day in peace without fear of harassment or abuse, and ScotRail works very closely with BTP to ensure that Scotland’s Railway is a safe environment for our customers and our own people.

“To assist us in tackling unacceptable behaviour, it’s important for anyone who witnesses it to report those responsible so that they can be brought to justice.”

A BTP spokesperson said: “Creating a safe transport network for Scotland is our priority, and we continue to work closely with all our partners, including Police Scotland, Network Rail, ScotRail, and SPT to share intelligence and strengthen our joint response to deter anti-social behaviour.

"Significant targeted work by officers has seen a reduction in incidents this year so far.

“Passengers continue to be our eyes and ears, and all reports help us to build a picture of what is happening and take appropriate action.”

Glasgow City Council transport convener Angus Millar said: “There is no place for anti-social behaviour in Glasgow and incidents on public transport or in our city centre perpetrated by a tiny minority of people can have an unacceptable impact on the general public, businesses and transport operators and their staff.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Where anti-social behaviour is reported, Police Scotland and BTP will work closely with operators to deter this behaviour and ensure offenders are identified and dealt with appropriately.

"Partnership working is already at the heart of our approach, but we will continue to explore further opportunities, including through our regional transport partnerships [such as SPT].

“To better understand the particular concerns of women and girls, we are currently undertaking research on their personal safety across and around public transport.

"This includes working with organisations representing the interests of a cross-section of women, as well as trade union groups who represent female staff working on the public transport network.

"Our engagement work with women and girls, which will take place over the summer, is expected to capture views and experiences of accessing and using public transport.

"The outcomes of this work, alongside our evidence review, will be used to inform our understanding and any future policy.”