Wednesday 9 November 2011

Another violent bus attack, this time at Redlynch

Sunbus, Cairns' local commuter bus service, has sustained more attacks, in what has now become a growing spree of violent attacks across the region.

The latest attack occurred last week in Redlynch, as a group of teenagers hurled rocks at an evening bus service along Michaelangelo Drive.

The photo shows the damage to last week's Redlynch attack.

However when CairnsBlog spoke with Sunbus manager Richard Gabasa, he appeared dismissive about an ongoing problem, and did not want to discuss the serious matter on the phone. When questioned about the latest attack in Redlynch, Mr Gabasa played down the incident.

"Yeah, there was some excitement up there," Gabasa said.

I put to Gabasa that this violent and unprovoked behaviour had been going on for some time.

"Oh, no mate. Look if you want me to make a statement, I invite you to send me an email, but I don't respond to phone calls about these things, because obviously we involve the police."

Some Sunbus drivers have said that they have taken things into their own hands, reporting attacks themselves and some even installing cameras as the company isn't doing enough.

I asked Richard Gabasa if the latest attack was reported to the police, but he appeared confused.

"Arrh, I don't have the report in front of me, I would imagine it would have been," Gabasa said.

The latest stoning attack occurred around 8pm on Halloween night, when around 30 youths between 10-15 years old spread across Michaelangelo Drive, in Redlynch, hell-bent on causing fear to passing motorists. They eventually dispersed of their own accord.

Youths have been using sling shots to propel large rocks at passing buses.

Drivers has said after previous attacks that they will refuse to drive some routes. Attacks have occurred in Gordonvale when a rock came through the front doors, thrown by a 14-year-old missile. The driver received concussion and the youth was charged.

Other attacks have occurred in Kewarra Beach, Trinity Beach, Raintrees shops, White Rock, Edmonton, Bayview, Redlynch, and in the violence-tempered Murray Street in Manunda.

In 2009 a Sunbus driver was assaulted and robbed at Manunda's Raintrees Shopping Centre around 10pm. In April this year, at 9pm, a rock was thrown through the bus's left side window, whilst there were passengers on board. Drivers have also been spat on and robbed in other incidents in recent months.

Around 30 incidents have occurred since 2009, with most of the attackers in their teens.

Sunbus drivers and Transport Workers Union have been asking for shatterproof glass and protective screens to be installed all around the buses.

"We are very concerned and there doesn't seem to enough being done about this," a driver told CairnsBlog who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. "Youths are getting in packs, however there seems a culture in Sunbus to not take some serious action about this violent problem."

Janine Aitken, industrial advocate and Cairns organiser of the Transport Workers Union, says it appears the attacks are growing in violence.

"What is Sunbus doing to protect its passengers and their staff?" Aitken asks. "The seats at the front of the bus are reserved for disabled, elderly, or mothers nursing young children, and this is the area where most of the attacks have occurred."

Aitken says that the carrying of cash on buses provides a extra temptation for anti-social behaviour.

"In Brisbane a GoCard system is in place, where the driver does not have to handle cash. Money has been stolen in Murray Street attacks," Janine Aitken says. "It won't be long before there is a very serious incident."

Brisbane drivers enjoy more safety with a shatterproof glass system, that make windows safer and more effectively resist missiles thrown at them.

"This design fault can be rectified on our local Cairns' Sunbus fleet," Janine Aitken says. "It further highlights the need to review windows in buses."

The Union says that Sunbus has an obligation to provide security on the buses for both drivers and passengers. One suggestion is that there's an additional staff member on board, especially in the evening. A security officer travels on buses on the Gold Coast.

In September the ongoing attacks caused a number of local Sunbus drivers to threaten an "after-hours ban" on some routes, including Murray Street. Drivers are demanding shatterproof screens and windows and also security guards in the evening routes.

Janine Aitken told CairnsBlog that Sunbus drivers have had enough.

"It’s not safe being a bus driver in Cairns," Aitken says. "So we’re taking action before serious injury or fatalities occur. We have called for anyone throwing rocks at buses to be charged with serious assault or a charge that reflect the seriousness of the attacks."


D.J.HUNT said...

I don't blame the drivers either. I recently observed a group of youths on Mugrave Rd in front of Showground shopping centre in broad daylight up to no good throwing things at a phone box and called local police but the phone just rang out. I then pulled them on and they fled up the road. I then saw them throw rocks at a sunbus and due to danger to road users called 000. they then ran to a nearby house which I saw them run to. The operator couldn't care less and said Oh we'll see if we can get there. There only question was "Are they ATSI?" I said what's that got to do with it, shouldn't you be asking where they went to? They didn't even ask me to hang around, point out where they went or would I give a statement.
I had to ring up Sunbus and provide them details in case damage was done.
Clearly we don't have enough police if they can't run up to a job where they have a witnes that can point them straight to where offenders are.

Terry Vance said...

Makes sense to me to have a security guard or extra staff member on board at night.