BUS safety plans are being rolled out after the public told the Northumbria Police Commissioner they want to see safer journeys across the North East.
While people are overall feeling safer when boarding the bus, tackling youth ASB and responding better to complaints have been identified as areas needing improvement and Commissioner Kim McGuinness said is determined to address them.
That’s why she is investing millions of pounds in a range of solutions from youth workers across transport networks, and the Safer Transport Northumbria App, to help make reporting concerns easier.
The renewed plans follow the findings of a bus survey conducted by PCC Kim McGuinness’s office earlier this year.
Although bus users were largely positive about feeling safe on buses, many expressed clear issues with the cost of travel during what are financially challenging times for many of the region’s families. There was also dissatisfaction around local routes and the handling of complaints.
Of the issues that bus users had experienced, anti-social behaviour, intimidating groups of people on buses and in stations, and alcohol related issues were the most common.
Last year, the PCC’s transport survey found that people want public transport that is not only reliable and affordable, but safe too. While this most recent bus survey echoed these wishes, it found 72 per cent felt safe or very safe when using the region’s buses – better than those who completed the Commissioner’s public transport survey in January (42%).
The Commissioner welcomed the progress made but acknowledged there are still 28 per cent who feel less safe, something which needs addressing. Other improvements will include more patrols and support from street pastors to help look after vulnerable passengers, as well as focused operations during busy periods.
A newly formed Multi Agency Transport Team (MATT) will also bring key organisations together to support the police response, particularly around interchanges and transport hubs.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “It’s a critical time for our bus companies because it’s a critical time for passengers. We must get bus travel right. We have a lot of plans in place to make travel safer already, which I am supporting with this investment, but with the Government grants that propped up the bus companies during the pandemic disappearing, I’m concerned about the impact on services and prices. It’s crystal clear these things matter so much to people right now.
“Let’s not forget we are one of the poorest regions in the country – cuts will undoubtedly hit us the hardest. Buses are relied on by the poorest in society. These people can’t pop to work in their car because they can’t afford one. We must get buses right. It’s one of many tools that can be used to help alleviate poverty – giving people access to opportunities and support. Poor transport only makes hardship worse and that’s not what any of us want for the people of the North East.”
Cllr Martin Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “Our bus network is really important for local people – helping people travel to access education, work or leisure opportunities in a sustainable way
“It is absolutely essential that people feel safe when travelling in the region, so I’m fully supportive of this investment to improve personal safety which I’m sure will help even more people to use public transport with confidence.”