Bus Thugs in Focus

Release date: 25/02/2013

Escalating violence on Gold Coast buses has sparked the first Australian study into driver assaults.

Gold Coast Bulletin, Gold Coast QLD  by Milena Stojceska, 25 February 2013

The $100,000 Bond University project will track the number and nature of attacks and devise ways to protect vulnerable drivers.

It comes after a spate of busrelated incidents on the Coast last year in which the safety of drivers and passengers came under threat.

Less than 10 per cent of incidents are reported because drivers claim the process is too time consuming, are worried about possible backlash from management and do not want to "cause a fuss", according to Bond University criminology researchers.

Assistant professor Robyn Lincoln and leading researcher Yolande Huntingdon said the pilot study which will be launched today -~ would firstly work with a small focus group of drivers including victims of recent assaults.

They will then survey thousands of drivers across the state, including Surfside’s 600 staff, to analyse the severity and reach of the violence problem. The data will then help researchers develop measures to better protect drivers from assaults.

Ms Huntingdon said a tablet-type device was under development which would be fitted to buses and allow drivers to quickly record assaults and other issues.

Surfside Buslines head of operations Les Manson said there was anecdotal evidence the Gold Coast had the highest rate of assaults in the country.

"The Gold Coast is leading the way unfortunately for the worst stats in Australia," he said. "Unfortunately it’s a badge we have to wear.

"We’ve been a leader in trying to address this on the Gold Coast and that’s what we’re doing again now." Mr Manson said Surfside had exhausted its options, claiming the company had done "everything" it could to protect drivers.

"We’ve had blanket security on the Gold Coast, with a private security company on call seven days a week," he said. "They are only a radio call away and the response time is three to four minutes." But Transport Workers Union members said that was not enough with many drivers still in fear of going to work.

TWU passenger transport coordinator Bob Gibbons said the study was "well and truly overdue". "At last someone is taking an interest in bow bad the situation is, especially on the Gold Coast," he said. "There are drivers out there being assaulted all the time.

"We’ve lost a huge number of drivers who don’t want to put up with this any more." Researchers say "hot spots" are Surfers Paradise, Mermaid Beach and areas along the Gold Coast Highway late on weekends. Ms Huntingdon said without researched theory, the Government could waste money on possible solutions.

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