Abuse could stop buses

CIVIC officials have warned that anti-social behaviour could force the withdrawal of a well-used town centre bus route. Barnstaple Town Councillors Sue Haywood and Val Monk, and Devon County Councillor Chris Haywood, say that the Gould Road and Forches Av

CIVIC officials have warned that anti-social behaviour could force the withdrawal of a well-used town centre bus route.Barnstaple Town Councillors Sue Haywood and Val Monk, and Devon County Councillor Chris Haywood, say that the Gould Road and Forches Avenue Stagecoach South West service is under threat due to unacceptable levels of abuse levelled at drivers.Drivers have reported a myriad of problems that they say become more frequent after school, at weekends, and during school holidays.One, who asked not to be named, told the Gazette that items had been thrown at his bus, while at other times, youngsters had placed obstacles in the road."Once, when I stopped and got out of the bus to move them, they opened the emergency door at the back, cutting the engine off," he said.Another who spoke to the Gazette said he was taking a fare from a passenger when a youth pushed a pit bull terrier through the open driver's window and told him to "argue with this"."Things got quite bad during the last half-term," he said. "It can be quite intimidating at times."The councillors spent a day travelling on the bus during the first week of the Easter school holidays to experience the problems for themselves."A lot of people depend on this route, especially senior citizens who regularly use the bus to get into town," said Cllr Monk."Most of the drivers have had problems so we've decided to spend a bit of time on the buses this week to see at first hand what the drivers have reported."Cllr Sue Haywood said the problems had "peaked" during the February half-term. "Drivers and passengers should be able to get on a bus, go to their destination and come back without having to endure abuse," she said."We have already made comment to North Devon Homes who are monitoring the situation with the tenants suspected of causing the problems."We will also be talking to the police; public safety has to come first and drivers have to be taken care of."Cllr Chris Haywood said that councillors, and elderly and disabled residents, had campaigned hard in 2006 to ensure that the "lifeline" service remained following a re-tendering process by Devon County Council."Two years ago, we all fought to keep this service and Stagecoach stepped in to take it on and run it," he said. "The last thing we want now is for a minority of idiots to cause the loss of an important service to their community. Any anti-social issues will be reported to the police to stop intimidation to drivers and passengers."Bus operator Stagecoach stepped in to take on and run and the service. Stagecoach operations manager Tony Simmons said that the company took driver and passenger safety very seriously. "All of our buses are fitted with internal and external CCTV cameras and we will seek to prosecute individuals through the courts," he said.


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