THE introduction of conductors on the notorious Manchester-Oldham-Rochdale tram line has moved a step closer.
Oldham Council is to ask Transport for Greater Manchester bosses to implement a 12-month trial period to minimise anti-social behaviour and fare evasion.
The line, which runs through Shaw and Crompton, Newhey and Milnrow, is the worst for violent and criminal incidents of any route on the Metrolink system.
At least one in eight passengers is estimated to fail to pay for a ticket, adding up to around £9 million in lost revenue across the network.
The deployment of conductors/ticket inspectors would reduce both fare evasion and ASB according to Shaw and Crompton’s elected councillors, who successfully obtained unanimous support for their motion from the November meeting of Oldham Council.
“I have stopped using the trams,” said Crompton Councillor Dave Murphy.
“It has turned into a free taxi for undesirables. I seem to be a magnet for these people who for some reason sit next to me and I have to suffer.
“These undesirables are just causing problems and making it unsafe for users of the service.
“People who are getting who are spiced out of their heads. It’s like watching an episode of the Walking Dead.
“Fare dodgers are taking the mickey out of us.
“But you don’t let the undesirables win and you support the genuine commuters who pay their fair share and expect a fair service to feel safe.
Cllr Hazel Gloster added: “You only need to ride from Shaw into Manchester and vice versa, particularly in the evening, to see youths getting on and off the tram and observe their general conduct to believe the tram is a mobile resource for their anti-social behaviour.
“One of my own constituents was subjected to a robbery at Shaw tram spot where he was attacked and had his mobile phone stolen.
“Other examples have seen people have their coats ripped off them and even robbed of their designer trainers, leaving them shoeless.
“We also have examples of passengers being racially abused by other passengers.”
Cllr Howard Sykes, OMBC’s leader of the opposition, who proposed the motion, said: “Safety and fare evasion on the tram are issues that both concern and annoy a great many of my constituents and those of my colleagues.
“Shaw and Crompton is the busiest stop on the Rochdale-Oldham line and many people, especially those who are elderly or vulnerable, are now fearful of travelling on the tram, even though this is the most frequent, reliable and convenient form of public transport into Oldham, Rochdale or Manchester.
“Passengers have the right to expect to be able to wait or travel safely on the tram, without being subjected to criminal or loutish behaviour.
“In addition, law-abiding passengers who pay for a ticket expect to see regular ticket inspections take place to ensure that others who should do so, do so.”
Other tram services in the UK have on-board staff on every service, such as the Sheffield Super Tram and on the Wolverhampton-Birmingham tram line.
Cllr Sykes added: “Not only does a conductor provide passengers with reassurance there is always someone at hand should they need assistance in an emergency but that person can also give passengers advice about services, stops and fares and help them to board and alight.
“In addition, a conductor would reduce fare evasion as he or she can issue tickets on the tram.
“This would also mean there would be less cash left in the machines at tram stops – and some of these have been targeted by thieves – and it would also mean those who are rushing to work need not worry about queuing up at a busy ticket machine before they board.”
OMBC leader Cllr Sean Fielding had claimed at an earlier council meeting: “If it was cost effective for conductors to be on the trams, they would be on there.”
However, he now admits: “I am genuinely shocked by the level of fare evasion. It is far beyond anything that anyone appreciated.
“The level of ASB was unacceptable for a long time and operation Infinity has had some success in reducing it.
“I am a recent user of the tram and it is nowhere near as bad as it was.
“It is clear though there is a significant amount of public money being lost because of the number of people avoiding paying the fare on the trams.
“If one way to try and tackle that is to trial the introduction of ticket inspectors or conductors on our line then myself and my group are happy to support it.”