Attacks on Edinburgh bus drivers double

The number of attacks on Lothian Buses drivers doubled last year. Picture: Jane Barlow
The number of attacks on Lothian Buses drivers doubled last year. Picture: Jane Barlow
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A BUS driver was attacked every fortnight in the Capital last year, new figures have revealed.

They were struck with weapons, spat at and verbally abused on 28 occasions – almost double the total of 2014, when there was just 15 assaults.

Lothian Buses described the attacks as “unacceptable” as trade unions called for a zero-tolerance approach towards violent passengers.

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The figures, released under Freedom of Information laws, only include incidents reported to police, which means the actual number of assaults could be higher.

Unite deputy Scottish Secretary Mary Alexander said: “Regrettably, assaults on workers serving the public are not uncommon and the rise in the number of incidents against Lothian Buses’ drivers over the last year is another demonstration of this.

“Unite welcomes any initiatives and measures geared towards public awareness and prevention of assaults on our members.

“However, no employer in the public domain can guarantee zero incidents and even one assault is still one too many.

“That’s why Unite has been a long-standing supporter of ­legislative intervention from the Scottish Parliament and it can be done.

“In 2010 the Protection of Workers Bill, which would have introduced a specific offence for assaults on workers who serve the public, including those in the public transport sector, was kicked into the political long grass.

“We certainly support the view that the next parliament should revisit the issue and it would also send out a clear message to the public that physical and verbal violence against any worker who provides a public service will not be tolerated.”

Former Tory MSP Cameron Buchanan demanded that radical measures were put in place to protect drivers, including fitting buses with buzzers.

He said: “The solution would be an emergency bell with a direct line to the police station. It would also alert everybody else on the bus that there is a problem.

“Even if an emergency bell wasn’t patched through to the police, it would still alarm the attacker and might help prevent a more serious assault.

“It is appalling that a driver doing his job should be subjected to these sort of attacks.

“The problem is that he or she can’t get just out of the bus [to escape] and lock it.”

He added: “It would be interesting to know how many people responsible for these incidents are actually convicted of a crime.”

A police liaison officer is currently employed to investigate all reported incidents on the city’s buses, while drivers undergo security training.

A spokesperson for Lothian Buses said: “The safety and welfare of our staff is one of our top priorities.

“With over 1500 drivers and 600 buses on the road each day, the proportion of staff affected is relatively low.

“However, incidents of this nature are completely unacceptable and we will continue to work hard to prevent and minimise the risk to our ­hard-working, committed and professional staff.”

john.connell@edinburghnews.com