ANTI-SOCIAL behaviour and fare dodging on the troubled Oldham to Rochdale Metrolink line could be reduced by the introduction of conductors.
That’s the belief of Shaw councillor and Oldham Council Leader of the Opposition, Howard Sykes.
Cllr Sykes wants Transport for Greater Manchester to trial his suggestion on the line, which includes stops in Shaw and Crompton, Newhey and Milnrow.
However, his proposal to Oldham Council’s September meeting met with lukewarm response from leader Cllr Sean Fielding.
Cllr Sykes acknowledged the success of the recent Operation Initiative on the troublesome route.
In a two-week period 13 people were arrested for public order incidents, theft, fraud, possession of cannabis, breach of parole and wanted on warrant.
More than 150 young people were also spoken to ensure they were safe.
Officers and staff from the TravelSafe Partnership (TSP) were deployed across the line to deter and disrupt criminality.
The operation was supported by the Mounted Unit and Youth Engagement Officers from Oldham Council.
“Regrettably we have seen many disturbing instances of crime and anti-social behaviour on the Rochdale-Oldham line, several very violent over recent months and unfortunately the line has the highest number of incidents across the network,” said Cllr Sykes, addressing Oldham Council’s September meeting.
“I welcome the recent actions of Metrolink staff, police and our Council’s Youth Engagement Officers in tackling this blight.
“The operation may be called Infinity but the resources are not and it will at some point come to an end.
“Some time ago Oldham Liberal Democrats revealed shocking figures that one in eight Metrolink passengers are fare-dodgers. Or to put it another way 12 percent of all journeys are not paid for.
“There are 40 million tram journeys a year so fare-dodging is estimated to cost Metrolink about £9 million in lost revenue.
“Conductors on trams would help tackle this issue and should pay for its self, whilst making the honest traveling public feel safe.
“It would also drive the fair dodgers and those causing anti-social behaviour off the trams.
“Other tram services in the UK have on-board staff on every service, such as the Sheffield Super Tram and on the Wolverhampton – Birmingham line.
“Not only does a conductor provide passengers with reassurance that 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.
“I would like to ask the Leader if he would be willing to join me in calling upon Metrolink operators to introduce conductors on a trial basis on the Rochdale – Oldham line?
“We can improve safety, tackle fare evasion and increase revenue for Metrolink – a triple win – and I do not know why we are not doing it already.”
Conductors could also help avoid a repeat of the incident that saw a man dragged along a platform at Bury Metro station with his hand trapped in a door after a safety system failed.
However, Cllr Fielding said: “The security regime (Infinity) has paid dividends with the number of arrests that have been made.
“As a result of the lobbying we have improved security and we have taken action both against fare evaders and against antisocial behaviour.
“It is easy to suggest that conductors would pay for themselves, but if that were the case then we would already have conductors on trams.”