In May last year sickening footage appeared on social media.

It recorded the pitiful cries of a young girl screaming for her mum as she was repeatedly punched around the head and then dragged to the floor where she was kicked and punched again.

The victim was travelling on a Metrolink tram in Manchester city centre when she was surrounded by a group of teenage boys and girls. A girl launched the horrifying attack.

READ MORE: Boy, 17, beaten up on Metrolink by gang of "animals" is rescued by Good Samaritan

At the time the head of Metrolink, Danny Vaughan, described the assault as 'totally unacceptable' and vowed to help police identify the culprits.

The girl's iPhone was stolen and she needed hospital treatment.

Earlier this month, as reported in the Manchester Evening News, a 17 year-old boy was brutally attacked on a tram by up to six youths in an attempted robbery.

The victim was travelling from Bury to his home but had to get off early at Radcliffe with the help of another passenger to escape the beating.

Radcliffe Metrolink stop, where a 17 year-old boy had to get off a tram early to escape six thugs who beat him up in an attempted robbery

Then, last month a 17-year-old boy was stabbed at East Didsbury tram stop in an attempted robbery. The incident is believed to be linked to another robbery at Trafford Bar stop on the same night.

The transport committee of Greater Manchester's Combined Authority was told this week how the number of assaults on the tram network increased by 123 per cent in July 2021, compared to the same month last year. Robbery and thefts were up 160 per cent.

Last year there were 1,504 incidents of antisocial behaviour on the Metrolink network. So far in 2021 there have been 1,088.

Yet when KeolisAmey took over the running of the Metrolink in 2017 its chief executive promised to boost security and crack down on fare dodgers.

The boss of Metrolink insists 'most' journeys are safe and 'without incident' and says frontline staff do a 'brilliant' job balancing 'the needs of our customers, revenue protection and security'.

Police at East Didsbury Metrolink stop after a stabbing and attempted robbery on August 27

But Metrolink drivers and staff say they feel 'abandoned' by management and are calling for beefed up security measures to protect them and travellers.

One driver said: "The situation is out of control. There is little chance of the culprits being caught and there is no fear of being on CCTV either.

"I want people to be able to use the Metrolink without fear or worry. But there have been a good number of reports of violence and threatening behaviour on the Metrolink in just this year alone which have warranted 999 calls including people being attacked.

"In one incident at the Abraham Moss stop a customer complained he was on the wrong tram and going the wrong way, so he started kicking hell out of his driver's door to enter the cab.

"If he had broken in and got the tram moving that would have been dangerous. It took an inordinate amount of time to get the help that the driver needed. It has left him extremely worried, especially when he is out late at night on the system."

Another member of staff said: "A lot of times you will find people will pull the emergency door handles, which opens the doors. When reports are made to Metrolink control there is an enormous amount of apathy - its is like 'oh it's bloody drivers moaning again'.

"The new operator's view is that while a driver is in the cab we can protect you, once you come out we can't protect you.

"So, if you get involved in a conflict with anybody on the vehicle, technically you are able to defend yourself, however the company see it as something else, so we tend to stay in the cab and make the right announcements on the PA system.

'The public are starting to get p***ed off'

"The general public who are starting to get p***ed off because their journey is being interrupted get involved - if that goes too far what happens to the fare paying general public who just want to go from A to B? God forbid they get hurt or worse or are collared for fighting back.

"As soon as there is an investigation Metrolink will give police all the information they have and potentially an innocent have-a-go hero is going suffer because of it.

"The first port of call is to put in an emergency call and put out announcement. But the natural thing for a driver is to come out and see what the hell is going on - then you are exposed.

"The company are not saying you can't come out of the cab - but that if we do they can't protect us - it is a wooly area."

A third member of staff said: "There is an apathy. Metrolink is a sum of many parts and there never seems to be no cohesion where all the parts fit and work together. It feels like there's a lack of organisation."

The boss of Metrolink insists safety is 'paramount'.

But asked if they thought there is a threat to customers and staff on a daily basis, the driver said: "Yes. From a driver's point of view there is not much we can do because once we come out of that cab the vehicle is disabled.

Police found drugs, a knife and a knuckle duster on a man without a Metrolink ticket in Manchester city centre

"From the inspectors point of view they need more powers - they need to be able to enforce the by-laws to control these miscreants - they are not stupid, they know what they can get away with it.

"Smoking is prevalent at the back of the carriage - cannabis and cigarettes - because the driver can't see what is going on. You get the smell coming through.

"There is fare evasion, smoking on the trams, smoking on the platforms. I guarantee that if you go and stand on a platform for an hour even at Victoria you will see people smoking.

"Transport for Greater Manchester will put up a little sign saying it is a £1000 fine for doing so on the platform - but they don't repeat that sign all the way down the platform - just one at either end.

"There are gangs of youths riding the trams. I don't believe they get on with the intent of harming people but once they are on they feel untouchable - therefore they can do what the hell they please."

Victoria

In August a booze and drug-fuelled lorry driver who carried out an 'appalling' attack on Metrolink staff was jailed for 20 weeks.

David Whittaker, 33, bit, punched, throttled and shouted homophobic abuse at three TravelSafe officers in St Peter's Square in Manchester city centre, Manchester Magistrates heard.

The incident on the evening of June 5 was sparked by staff telling Whittaker, of Chapel Lane, Stretford, not to smoke on the platform.

Whittaker punched one female officer and called her a 'f***ing lesbian' just as police were arriving on the scene, having been called by members of the public, the court heard.

One driver said: "We - the staff - are basically abandoned, that's what it feels like. There needs to be some political balls. from the TfGM, probably through Mr Burnham's office (Greater Manchester Mayor). If they can have environmental enforcement officers going round with some kind of warrant to enforce littering by-laws why can't we have it?

"Metrolink used to have its own police department, similar to BTP - warranted officers. We now have this special police transport unit - but it is not a visual thing.

"The lad who was recently the victim of the attempted robbery (at Radcliffe) where does he turn to - there was nothing for him. If it wasn't for the fact that someone stepped in on his behalf it could have been far worse.

"This really needs to be taken seriously. I believe a security presence is needed on every tram without a doubt. The trouble is it is pound notes as far as the management are concerned.

"There should be someone on the tram with the power of arrest - they would need it - that is the only way they could operate - even then they would be in danger. People are quite happy to attack police officers now regardless of the ramifications of their actions. I think one person on there would be insufficient. It would be exposing that person to risk.

'The Rochdale line has a bad reputation', one driver told us

"There are about 125 active trams - the only time we might get away with there not being protection on board is during the peak service period when there are many people on board. When it gets quieter that is when the issues start.

"The Rochdale line has a bad reputation and other areas are getting one too. - Oldham, and parts of the Bury line.

"It does disappoint me that when we have such a great tram system which assists so many people to get about it is marred by this element responsible for anti-social behaviour. But there is a resignation and apathy by our bosses."

Staff say there can be farcical situations when inspectors target fare dodging hotspots .

"People will stand up on the platform to get on the tram - see the inspectors on board and sit back down again. I was on duty on one line and an inspector told me 25 people had not paid - and if they kick off or walk away out policy is not to pursue.

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"TravelSafe officers are there to oversee things - they believe if there is some kind of uniform presence things will calm down - their effectiveness is I would say, questionable. We want to get people from A to B safe and sound, so that when they get off it was not an ordeal - the problem is we feel like we don't have the back up.

"We want better security and safety for the people who use the Metrolink and those who work on it. We are abandoned and the policy if trouble erupts is walk away don't get yourself involved, don't worry, but we are still embroiled in it all.

"I suppose if these issues started impacting finances that is where the management will start sitting up.

Members of the TravelSafe partnership

"They used to have signs on the back of the driver's cabs going on about respect over time they have disappeared. I do remember them saying we will prosecute anybody interfering with the duties of the staff of Metrolink."

"The simple fact that both Keolis (the operators) and to a larger extent TfGM (the network owners) do not wish to get into conflict - that is the root of the whole issue.

"Yes they have inspectors who work hard but have their hands tied behind their back. The TravelSafe officers just seem to walk around the city centre with their heads buried in their phones and so never appear to do anything other than provide presence.

"The issue needs to be taken seriously at the highest levels of the Mayor's Office and they need to maintain the necessary pressure to give the travelling public confidence to use the system."

Approached by the M.E.N, the boss of Metrolink said they worked closely with partners to prevent anti-social behaviour, with TravelSafe officers patrolling 2,000 hours a week.

Antisocial behaviour on the Metrolink tram system, July 2020 and July 2021

In 2017 Alistair Gordon, chief executive of Metrolink operator, Keolis, said by 2020 there would be 140 reps on the network to increase presence on trams and at stops, especially during the evenings and on routes with the worst anti-social behaviour and fare dodging. He said the Travelsafe unit - which patrols the network - would also be boosted.

Figures presented to GMCA's transport committee this week comparing incidents of anti-social behaviour in July 2020 to July 2021, revealed the number of assaults rose from 13 to 29, an increase of 123 percent; robbery and thefts increased from five to 13, up 160 percent.

Reports of riding on the outside of trams increased from zero to 22; sexual assaults were up from three to four; and weapons incidents from two to three.

Damage to property rose from 26 to 30; and anti-social behaviour from 18 to 19.

But other categories saw significant decreases. Harassment and intimidation reduced from 65 to 45; and drink and drug related incidents from 28 to 7.

Obstruction and interference with the network operations reduced from 31 to 27.

The report says the main contributing factor to criminal damage was the Euro 2020 screening at Event City. In total 19 trams were severely damaged throughout the running of the event.

Damage caused to the ceiling of a Metrolink tram after the screening of the Euro 2020 tournament this summer at Event City

It adds: "There was also an increase in incidents of youths travelling on the outside of vehicles, which is subject to ongoing focus of the TravelSafe Partnership.

"There were 29 reported assaults across the Metrolink network during July, which is the highest monthly total since 35 assaults were recorded at the start of pandemic in March 2020.

"There were 9 assaults on the Oldham Rochdale line and five of these involved assaults by groups of youths on fellow passengers. As a consequence, the Oldham Rochdale line has been prioritised by the TravelSafe Partnership.

"TravelSafe Days of Action have continued with a focus on locations where antisocial behaviour has been reported and low face covering compliance noted."

From June to August 2021 there were 1367 reported incidents of crime and anti social behaviour reported on the bus and tram network in Greater Manchester. During the same period in 2019 there were 1379.

TfGM’s Head of Metrolink, Danny Vaughan, said: “Public transport in Greater Manchester is safe and most journeys happen without incident, due in part to the work we do with the police, operator and other partners as part of the TravelSafe Partnership, to keep it that way.

“Staff and passenger safety is paramount and whether travelling or working, we want everyone to have confidence in Metrolink.

“Where people do not feel safe, it’s important we know why, so we can do something about it. Keolis Amey Metrolink's staff and contractors on the front line do a brilliant job balancing the needs of our customers, revenue protection and security and I would encourage any employee who may have concerns to speak to their line manager.

"We work closely with police and other partners to try and prevent incidents of crime and antisocial behaviour right across the region's transport networks, and Metrolink has its own team of TravelSafe officers that dedicate 2,000 hours each week to patrolling our stops and services throughout the day and night seven days a week."

Metrolink says In Greater Manchester the TravelSafe Partnership (TSP), brings together public authorities and transport operators 'to work collectively to understand, address and tackle issues of crime and antisocial behaviour'.

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It uses staff and police deployments, target hardening, sharing of data and intelligence, school’s prevention work, days of action.

There have been two days of action on the Bury line recently due to an increase in antisocial behaviour.

All tram stops and trams have CCTV and emergency help points and the control room is staffed 24/7.

Rob Cox, Director of Service Delivery for operator KeolisAmey Metrolink (KAM), said: “The safety and security of our employees is a priority and we are working hard with our TravelSafe partners, including Greater Manchester Police, to deter crime and antisocial behaviour on the Metrolink network.

"Since KAM’s contract commenced in 2017, we have invested significantly in improvements to security, including the introduction of body worn cameras for all our frontline customer service teams.”

Sergeant Steven Wightman-Love from GMP's Transport Unit said: "The Transport Unit continuously carries out high visibility patrols to provide passenger reassurance and deter criminal activity. In addition, plain clothes officers do regular sweeps of hotpot areas, led by police intelligence and data from our TravelSafe partners. In its first year, the Transport Unit attended 445 incidents, and made 409 arrests.

"If you or anyone you know sees something that isn't right, or you want to report something, don't hesitate to get in touch. You can do so via LiveChat on our website www.gmp.police.uk, but always use 999 in an emergency. You can also call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

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