INCIDENTS of ‘mindless vandalism’ to bus shelters leading to costly repairs have more than doubled since lockdown, the Chronicle can reveal.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request to South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) show that since 2019 there have been 417 reports of vandalism to bus shelters on Barnsley’s road network.

In 2018-19, contractors called out to repair any of SYPTE’s 591 shelters logged 74 occasions where the cause of the damage was thought to be vandalism.

The following year, that figure ballooned to 215 incidents amid a general increase in call-outs to repair shelter glazing, from 92 to 414.

These range from weather damage - the borough was hit by severe flooding in November 2019 and the following January - road traffic collisions, and general wear and tear, as well as improvement works to existing furniture.

However, transport bosses note instances are largely down to assumptions by those at the scene.

In 2020-21, there were 333 reports logged - the vast majority of which, at 202, were believed to be down to vandalism.

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SYPTE director of transport operations, Pat Beijer, told the Chronicle: “Public transport has been vital to local people for essential travel throughout the pandemic, and we know how important safe and secure shelters are to bus users.

“Still, we have seen increased reports of damage to our infrastructure in Barnsley, and across South Yorkshire.

“Mindless vandalism that affects customers’ journeys and costs taxpayers’ money to mend.

“We work hard to maintain transport infrastructure for the people that need it and the places it serves.

“We take damage to bus shelters seriously - it will not be tolerated.

“All incidents of vandalism are reported to South Yorkshire Police.”

The transport authority upped its repairs budget from £215,000 - which it had been since 2016 - to £235,000 last year in a bid to keep up with issues.

Incidents of criminal damage and arson were on the rise in 2020, according to data taken from Barnsley’s Community Safety Partnership (CSP) - a combination of emergency services, the council and health and probation services.

In the year up to September 2019, there had been 3,074 reports, which rose by three per cent to 3,163 the following year.

There was also a steep 20 per cent rise in public order offences - which can include vandalism - from 2,245 to 2,699.

From March to November last year, Barnsley Council revealed it had spent close to £20,000 on repairs to the borough’s parks and play areas, as agencies move to tackle vandalism and antisocial behaviour.

Such areas in Cudworth and Shafton have been among the worst-hit.

And it’s a similar story with bus shelters, with Shafton Parish Council chairman Dave North saying another shelter in the village has been hit this week, on Pontefract Road.

The council has been working with police to bring more patrols into the village.

“Unfortunately, we have certain people who all they want to do is damage - we have the same problem in the park,” he said.

“We’ve never had it before - they used to come in and have a drink but we had no problems, now they’re breaking bottles and graffitiing.

“They don’t realise it’s us who’s paying for this.

“The village has a lot of volunteers who go out on a regular basis litter picking and that sort of thing - if we didn’t, it would look a bit of a mess to say the least.”

Pat added: “Communities can continue to help us tackle vandalism by reporting any damage or information that could assist with investigations.”