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Rise in anti-social behaviour on Greater Manchester's public transport

Anti-social behaviour (ASB) rose slightly on Greater Manchester’s public transport network, a new report has revealed.

The rate of ASB has risen to 39 incidents per million passenger journeys in 2023, up from 37 a year before. The increase was driven by a sharper rise on the bus network, with Metrolink trams seeing markedly fewer incidents.

The bus rate rose from 24 to 31, with the tram rate falling from 95 to 72. ‘Youth-related’ ASB made up nearly half of all reports, with 42 percent on trams and buses in this cohort, and 45 percent at stations. 

According to the report, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) says the rises are due to increased awareness from passengers on how to report incidents, a recruitment drive seeing more TravelSafe officers on the network catching trouble-makers, specific police operations to target problem areas, and a rise in passenger numbers-across-the-board.

Assaults surged by 48 percent on the buses, with incidents where weapons were used climbing by 25 percent. More encouragingly, criminal damage — where objects are hurled at vehicles — fell by 23 percent.

The report adds that October was the worst month for ASB on the buses, due to ‘darker nights, school half term, and the lead up to Halloween and bonfire night’ driving the surge. 

Passengers on trams fared better, although assaults increased by 17 percent. The Rochdale and Oldham line — once blighted by ASB — saw incidents reduce by a fifth, ‘with ASB down 31 percent, weapon-related incidents down 36 percent and damage to property down 27 percent.

‘Tram surfing’ — where yobs hold on to the outside of a tram while it’s moving — saw a huge fall, with the total incidents going from 35 down to four. On the platforms, the largest increase of any kind were ‘incidents linked to homelessness’ growing by 337 percent ‘with Piccadilly Station Metrolink Stop a hotspot’. That led to GMP launching Operation Vulcan on the network to target ASB issues, the report suggests.

The last year has also seen a drive to crack down on fare-dodgers, with 50 new TravelSafe officers being recruited to quell the practice. The now-170-strong unit has helped drive down fare evasion from 16 percent, Mayor Andy Burnham said on Monday (February 19), but he added one in ten journeys are still not paid for in explaining why 30 more officers are being hired.

To date, the-16,000-hour crackdown has seen Metrolink take an extra £2 million, and helped passenger numbers rise, TfGM said. Lucy Kennon, its head of resilience, added: “Everyone who travels on public transport or chooses to walk, wheel or cycle is entitled to be safe and feel safe.

“We know that incidents and perceptions around safety can be a real barrier to people travelling and we are absolutely committed to tacking this issue as we continue to roll-out the Bee Network.

“While the vast majority of children and young people are well behaved and considerate of others when travelling, a lot of reported incidents are down to youth antisocial behaviour, and that’s why we have such a strong focus on our engagement and outreach activity.

“We now have more staff and run more operations than ever as part of a robust and co-ordinated programme of prevention and enforcement – which is encouraging more reporting – and our clear and unequivocal message is that crime and antisocial behaviour will not be tolerated, and while incidents do remain low compared to the millions of journeys that happen every month, we take this incredibly seriously and will take appropriate action if necessary.”

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