Metrolink passengers will see an increased police presence on Metrolink services as part of a new plan to ‘stamp out’ crime on the network.
Speaking to the MEN from the Conservative Conference, Chris Boardman said passengers ‘had to feel secure’ after 6pm.
The former professional cyclist’s remit was extended from active travel to all Greater Manchester transport in May.
His latest decision follows a number of disturbing reports of assaults on Metrolink, including an attack on a young girl who was punched and dragged along the floor, and the brutal attack of a 17-year-old boy in an attempted robbery.
A recent report shows assaults on the network increased by 123 per cent in July 2021 when compared to the same month last year.
Robbery and thefts were up by 160 per cent.
Mr Boardman said: “I don’t just want it to be short-term, let’s stamp it out. It needs to be a long-term solution, people need to see police and security wandering about.
“They need to be present for people to feel safe. A sustained, long-term presence.”
Mr Boardman said they were still hammering out a plan and working on funding to make it happen – so could not yet provide numbers – but that it would go hand-in-hand with the reorganisation of GMP.
He said they were in talks with police to work up a plan, adding: “We know where the hotspots are.”
On their new approach, Mr Boardman added: “It’s about their activity as opposed to just getting more money but I will be looking at the bill.
“I’ll say ‘if it needs more just tell me. What can we do with what we’ve got, and tell me what more we need to get the job done’.
“If we don’t do it then we could very well be wasting money on a public transport system that people are too uncomfortable to use.
“I would expect someone who travels on a tram at night to see a police presence and feel comforted by it.”
He added: “It would be a false economy not to take action on this. There’s revenue going when people won’t get on a tram after 6pm and we have action plans that will come into play shortly.”
The network has seen action plans to tackle anti-social behaviour before.
In 2015, when the service was run by Metrolink RATP Dev Ltd, the TravelSafe unit was launched – the first full-time dedicated force to be assigned to trams and buses in Greater Manchester.
The 16-strong band of police constables, PCSOs, special constables, and security experts were tasked with carrying out regular patrols in a three-year pilot.
When KeolisAmey took over the running of the Metrolink in 2017 its chief executive promised to boost security and crack down on fare dodgers.
In 2019, following a similar spate of crimes, a 63-strong team of police officers formed a ‘specialist branch’, replacing the Travel Safe Unit, and dedicated to cracking down on crime on public transport.
But Chris Boardman said they were serious this time about addressing the problem.
Describing earlier efforts as ‘very short term’, he said: “I’ve met the new chief constable and the deputy and they are a breath of fresh air, I have lots of confidence that there is change coming.
“I’m really optimistic that people will at last be getting what they deserve.”
Mr Boardman said they were also working on a road danger reduction plan after accepting he had ‘failed’ to put enough in place earlier.
He said they were holding monthly meetings to tackle the issue.