Vital bus service for vulnerable targeted in planned night of vandalism

SEAG drivers Jim Harcourt and Stewart Mitchell with some of the exhausts which were ripped out of their minibuses. Picture: Greg Macvean
SEAG drivers Jim Harcourt and Stewart Mitchell with some of the exhausts which were ripped out of their minibuses. Picture: Greg Macvean

A BUS service that provides vital support to vulnerable people in the Capital has fallen victim to thieves.

Organisers at the South Edinburgh Amenities Group (SEAG) were devastated after diesel filters from half of its 14-vehicle fleet were stolen on Tuesday night, putting the buses out of action.

The charity, which provided 68,000 passenger journeys last year, uses specially adapted buses to give support, usually to the elderly and disabled, to enable them to participate in a wide range of community and social events.

It is the second time they have been targeted this year following a similar incident in June, which resulted in six buses being forced off the road, costing a total of £12,000. Organisers now fear further criminal activity could result in the service having to close, which would be a blow to the community.

Peter Carruthers, general manager, said: “It is a community tragedy. These people are targeting vulnerable organisations such as ours.

“We can’t deal with many more incidents such as this otherwise we may have to consider closing down, which would be a huge shame. We rely on grants and funding to keep our costs affordable.

“We need to think about what we can do to prevent this from happening again. It makes me feel physically sick thinking that someone would do this.

“We have diesel filters to help with emissions. There must be some value in these parts of the system for them to go to these lengths to steal them.”

The thieves are believed to have accessed the buses by cutting through a hedge at the back of the yard, on The Wisp. They ripped out the exhaust system to take the filters leaving the remaining parts behind.

The other half of the fleet was kept within a garage on the same premises.

Each Vauxhall Crafter costs £52,000 to the charity and it is now facing thousands of pounds’ worth of repairs.

The community group, which helps battle isolation and loneliness in the Capital, now faces an anxious wait to discover how long the seven buses will be out of service.

Peter added: “Without our service, some people would not leave the house. They are now seen regularly within the community and are really comfortable with what we do.

“We have a lot of lunch clubs which is very important to these people.

“We are in the process of finding out the damage and how much it will cost. In the meantime we are seeking the help of other organisations which might be able to help us at this time.

“These people are just very self centred. They have not thought about how their actions will have a detrimental impact on not just the organisation, but the people who rely on us for transport.”

Police Scotland is currently investigating the incident.