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Transport / ‘We can and will refuse travel’: bus operator reminds folk to behave on board

Photo: R. Robertson & Son Ltd

A LOCAL bus operator has spoken out against what it is says is an escalating problem of young people’s behaviour on board services in Shetland.

R. Robertson and Son Ltd managing director Sonia Robertson said it was a minority giving the majority a bad reputation and stressed that all young passengers cannot be tarred with the same brush.

But after an incident on board a public bus at the weekend she has sought to raise awareness that “acceptable behaviour is expected on buses too”.

She believes vandalism on buses in Shetland is at an “all time high” – as is “dreadful behaviour” too.

On the R. Robertson and Son Ltd fleet alone there is at least £6,000 of damage – mainly backs of seats needing replacement. Some have been burned with outlines of male genitalia, for example, while seat belts have been cut too.

The operator, which runs nine public services in Shetland as well as school transport and has access to 30 staff, said the behaviour of six youths on a northbound bus on Saturday was reported to the police.

R. Robertson and Son Ltd managing director Sonia Robertson

Since R. Robertson and Son Ltd posted about the incident, which involved passengers attempting to break a glass emergency exit panel, on social media on Monday evening three passengers have apologised.

After talks with the council and the police the operator has delivered new protocols that include services not operating if there is unruly behaviour, or buses pulling over mid-journey.

“Nobody wants these measures, but we are facing no alternative option right now,” Robertson told Shetland News.

Whilst the incident at the weekend prompted the operator to speak out, the apparent Shetland-wide problem of young people’s behaviour on buses seems to have escalated since coming out of Covid pandemic.

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Robertson estimates there are incidents on buses daily, with the issue not isolated to one area of Shetland.

“Beyond cleaning, repairs, and costs, it’s the abuse to our staff, their safety, and the implications on safety and comfort to other passengers,” she said.

“It’s hardly an enjoyable experience when groups of youths are intimidating passengers, barging past and pushing mothers with push chairs and shouting profanities at the driver.

“Throwing litter, food, plant pots, covering the seats and windows with Vaseline and tearing sanitary items for tossing in the vehicles are all experiences this year alone.”

Robertson said in some instances primary school aged children had been involved.

“Messages need to be installed that acceptable behaviour is expected on buses too, that we can and will refuse travel, and are able to ask passengers to leave or call the police – this isn’t what we want for our Shetland youth and yet here we are,” she said.

“Folk must know what’s happening, ownership must be taken, issues addressed before it escalates to another level.

“Which asks the questions on how have we come to this and what is the root problem? Based on feedback so far, from our Facebook post, eyes are opening – that’s a start.

“We just want to get on with what we do and make public services a positive experience, not one to dread depending on the time of day and day of the week it is.

“We cannot tar all young travellers with the same brush either, we know this, we have good ones too that travel without any issues regularly. It is giving the majority a bad reputation on minority groups, however.”

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