Bus service cut as gang of youths cause havoc in town

McGills bus sign on Main Street, Barrhead
The route will continue to stop on Barrhead Main St despite locals claims the group have targeted supermarkets and small businesses there.

Residents of an East Renfrewshire town say they are at the "end of their tether" after a spate of youth vandalism and violence led to a bus service cancellation.

McGills Buses has cancelled their evening stop in the Auchenback area of Barrhead after bricks were thrown at their vehicles, smashing windows.

Locals say a group of young teenagers are causing havoc in the town.

Police have increased their patrols and are calling for support from parents.

Residents who spoke to BBC Scotland News said the spate of youth disorder in Barrhead had reached a "tipping point" but many refused to give their name or be photographed for fear of repercussions.

One woman said: "When I saw the buses cancelled at the weekend I was just scunnered. It really upsets me. One of these boys are going to come to a sticky end."

She said McGill's decision was understandable but elderly and vulnerable people who rely on public transport would be worst affected.

"It's not just the buses they're targeting," she added. "They target all these businesses on Main Street and everywhere else. The police can't do anything about it and we are all at the end of our tether with them.

"We just don't know what to do about them. It's not fair."

McGills bus stopped on Main St Barrhead
Routes 51, 51A and 3 will not stop in Auchenback between 1700-0500 for the foreseeable future

The issues came to a head at the weekend when McGills announced on social media that the 51, 51A and 3 would no longer serve Auchenback between 17:00 and 05:00.

Ralph Roberts, the company's CEO, said it would be willing to reinstate the service so long as passengers and staff could be kept safe.

"Throwing missiles, such as bricks, at a bus is incredibly dangerous," he added. "Someone could be hit directly - as they have been recently - or a driver could be forced to swerve, leading to an even more serious incident.

"We have alerted Police Scotland to the issues but due to manpower problems they have had limited ability to assist.

"To deliver our vital public service, we need law and order to prevail."

A McGill's passenger was recently injured on another service in Renfrew when the bus was attacked by a separate group.

Police Scotland said no injuries have been reported from routes in Barrhead or Auchenback.

Asda on Main Street, Barrhead
Locals say Asda has been targeted by the youths

Kirsty Black, who runs MacPhee's cafe with her partner, James, said the nearby Asda supermarket was a particular target for the group.

"This has been going on for about 18 months if not longer," she said.

"The police and security guards do try. I feel terrible for the poor people who work in Asda, they have a terrible time with them.

"There have been assaults, spitting, vandalism and shoplifting.

"I don't use the bus but it's a real shame they've had to do this. All the old ones use it and it's a real loss to them for this to happen because of these kids."

Locals point out other signs of vandalism in the area such as graffiti on shops near the bus route and graffiti on a knocked-over telephone connection box.

Graffiti on vandalised telecoms box
There is evidence of graffiti and vandalism on the streets of Barrhead

Include Me 2 Club, a charity for people with disabilities based in Barrhead's Main Street, has also been a victim of the disorder.

Co-founder Paul McIlvenny said its premises had been vandalised and bins had been set on fire.

Her said: "There has been a growing concern over the past year of youth disorder but it has reached a tipping point with more dangerous acts being committed, from break-ins, fires, vandalism and youths throwing objects to moving cars and buses.

"Its becoming a real concern that these behaviours are going unchecked, unpunished and no real plan to combat the disorder or engage in alternative activities/services.

"Sadly the whole community is being affected by their actions, with reductions in buses, services and people possibly fearing going out in their local community."

'Completely unacceptable behaviour'

Local SNP MSP Tom Arthur said he has previously been in contact with the local community policing team as well as East Renfrewshire Council regarding the anti-social behaviour.

"I'm horrified to have heard of the reasons for the withdrawal of McGill's evening bus in Auchenback over the weekend," he said.

"It is completely unacceptable behaviour in what seems to be a targeted attack, which will have left passengers and the driver shaken.

"Today I have made contact with local organisations and representatives to discuss how we can support the local community to ensure Auchenback remains served by this vital service, and ensure that any anti-social behaviour is tackled and residents in the community feel safe."

McGills said they have been working with Police Scotland and await their guidance on how to proceed.

Police Scotland's local community policing officer Steven Wallace, said: "In recent weeks, there have been a number of bus windows smashed by youths in the area. There have been no reports of anyone being injured.

"We have been liaising with McGills buses and our partners agencies to address these issues and officers are carrying out additional patrols in the affected areas to reassure the public and trace those responsible.

"We urge parents, guardians and the local communities to support us. If you see this type of behaviour, or youths congregating at bus stops and causing a disturbance, then please report it to us at the time so that we can investigate."