A bus company today said it has been forced to employ police-accredited security guards on its vehicles – to control rowdy TENNIS hooligans.
Bus operators Norfolk Green have employed a team of three guards to patrol buses and stops during the annual Hunstanton Tennis Week, in Hunstanton, Norfolk.
Security has been stepped up after tennis yobs shouted lewd chants and even opened an emergency exit while the vehicle was in motion during last year’s event.
This year they have resorted to laying on extra security guarded buses for the troblemaking teenagers to ”segregate” them from other passengers using the service.
At the height of the tournament up to 5,000 teenagers congregate at the Hunstanton recreational grounds for the tennis week.
The firm’s ”Coasthopper” service transports teenagers staying in villages on the Norfolk coast to Hunstanton for the festival.
Staff have been employed from Norwich based security firm EventGuard – who usually work as bouncers and cash collectors.
They have now been tasked to spend five hours each day on the double decker buses controlling teenagers aged from 14 years old.
Two guards patrol the afternoon and evening services of the buses from Hunstanton to Brancaster and Burnham Market and another patrols the Hunstanton recreational grounds bus stop.
Nigel Briggs, managing director of EventGuard said it was the first time the firm’s services had been used on buses.
He said: ”We were called in to help control the teenagers after anti-social and dangerous behaviour in previous years.
”Last year the police were involved with some of the teenagers and an entire bus load of passengers had to be disembarked after they pulled open the emergency escape in transit.
”Bus drivers also had to deal with lewd chants and comments, which were also upsetting regular passengers, so this year we are there to make it clear to them that it is not acceptable.
”So far there have been no incidents. It is made very clear to the teenagers that we are there both at the stop and on the buses so they can’t get away with anything.”
Managing director of Norfolk Green, Ben Colson, said the firm had been forced to take action after a series of problems during last year’s event.
He said: ”We did this to make sure that we did away with the interference with the driver. The driver’s attention was distracted.
”He has got to be able to drive in the knowledge that there is safety on the bus.
”It is not an easy road to drive a big vehicle on anyway.”
He added that he was ”disappointed” he had been forced to resort to such a measure, but had to prevent drivers from dealing with bad behaviour.
On Monday, guards issued each of the teenagers boarding the bus with a behaviour code of conduct which, if breached, could lead to them being banned from the service.
Norfolk Green will assess how effective the guards were this year and compare the undisclosed cost of hiring them to the extra revenue generated from teenager’s fares.