Preston city centre buses diverted after brick attacks by youths
A road on the outskirts of Preston city centre has become a no-go area for buses after dark, following a spate of incidents in which vehicles came under attack from brick-throwing youths.
More than half a dozen services have been diverted to avoid a stretch of Fishergate Hill after buses were targeted in acts which one witness told the Post are “putting lives at risk”.
The attacks have forced services running after 5pm to be re-routed via Bow Lane and the A59 Guild Way in order to swerve the flashpoint between the West Cliff and Broadgate junctions.
Stagecoach, the operator whose vehicles have been the victim of the yobbery, says it is “appalled” by the behaviour of those involved and has acted to protect its passengers and drivers. Other bus firms using the route have also changed the course of their evening services in response to the violence.
A resident who saw one of the most recent incidents last Monday night said that the perpetrator was unperturbed by the fact that he could be seen by all who were using the busy street at time - and the unsuspecting people on board the bus he attacked.
“I was waiting at a stop on the opposite side of the road and I saw a lad riding up on the same side as a bus that was coming up the hill,” said the man, who did not want to be identified.
“He had no lights on and he started overtaking the bus - and I thought to myself what an idiot he was, because if the bus had pulled out it would have hit him.
“Then he spun out to the other side of the road and stopped. The next minute - bang - he threw something at one of the passenger windows on the driver’s side. I heard it pop, you could see the hole in it, but I don't think it went right in.
“He was in the middle of the road when he did it - he was quite blatant and then he just shot off down the hill to another couple of lads.
“I was in two minds about whether to [chase after him], but then he started coming back up the hill to have a nosey at his work.”
The witness said that he had seen similar incidents back in the spring during daylight hours - and the Post understands that buses have been targeted in the area intermittently for around 18 months, including during school holidays.
It had been hoped that the attacks had come to a stop, but there has been a recent upsurge in brick and stone-throwing which has led to the bus diversions being put in place. There have also been reports of attempts being made to get into the engine compartments of stationary buses.
The resident who witnessed last week’s incident says that those who are hurling the projectiles “don't give a toss” about who they could hurt.
“If you've got a grandmother sitting there on the bus and a brick comes through, it doesn't bear thinking about,” he said.
"When I saw buses being attacked earlier in the year, I said something to the ones who were doing it and one of them came back at me shouting, 'What are you saying?’ So then I just kept my mouth shut.
“At the end of the day, we were all young and stupid once, but these silly antics are potentially pitting lives at risk. In the worst case scenario, they could kill someone and end up in jail themselves for a stupid act.
“And all because they think they're hard - whereas really they're just complete idiots.”
Salim Desai, Preston city councillor for the city centre ward, which includes Fishergate Hill, said that some youths were “running around as if nothing can stop them”.
He also told the Post that he had received a complaint from one parent saying that police were dealing with children in the area in a “heavy-handed” manner.
“You need a balanced approach when dealing with children, but we have been pushing for the police to take action - especially where the bus companies have provided CCTV evidence.
“How else are we going to stop them? They're not going to listen to reason, so there needs to be some kind of sanction, either from the police or their social landlord.
“We do [also] have to try to engage with them and show them the error of their ways, because [what they are doing] is not clever - they are a danger to others and themselves.
“The bus companies have had enough and stopped services [on part of Fishergate Hill] - and it's not for the first time. They cannot afford the cost nor the danger to their passengers and drivers,” said Cllr Desai.
He added that a “very active” residents' group in the area had been working closely with the police and bus operators and that there was a multi-agency approach being taken to tackling the scourge.
Chief Inspector Azz Khan, neighbourhood police inspector for Lancashire Constabulary, told the Post: “We are well aware of this issue, which we take very seriously.
“Our neighbourhood team have been working hard on a number of enquiries and speaking to partners and we have now identified an individual who we will be speaking to in due course.”
Meanwhile, a Stagecoach spokesperson condemned the vandals who have been attacking its vehicles.
"Bus services are absolutely critical to local communities and our economy. Diverting our buses is a last resort, but we cannot risk the safety of our hard-working staff or our customers.
“Along with the rest of the community, we are appalled at the recent anti-social behaviour directed at our services in the Preston area and we would urge anyone with any information about these incidents to contact the police.
"We are continuing to work closely with the Lancashire Police and Lancashire County Council."
The Stagecoach services that have been temporarily diverted are the X2, 2, 2A, 3 and 111. Preston Bus service number 12 is following the same diversion route, as is the 119 operated by RS Tyrer.
A spokesman for Lancashire County Council, whose County Hall headquarters are just yards away from the trouble spot, said: "We're working closely with the bus operators to coordinate the diversion of services after 5pm, and provide information to passengers, following the most recent incidents of anti-social behaviour.
"We're sorry for the inconvenience to passengers, however the priority for operators has to be for the safety of people travelling on the buses, and their drivers.
"We will provide updates for passengers at the bus stops affected by the diversions when it is considered safe to resume services, and in the meantime would ask anyone with information about the recent incidents which may help the police with their inquiries to get in touch with them."
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