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Sandwell Council is considering installing the latest “talking” CCTV system to cut down on anti-social behaviour in West Bromwich. Barbara Panvel makes a plea for the human touch.

The upper deck of a 49 bus to Shirley suddenly filled with choking acrid smoke coming from the back of the bus. There were only two young men sitting there, neither of whom appeared to be smoking.

When I spoke to the driver and two of their burly colleagues who happened to be on the bus I was told nothing could be done about it: the driver is not allowed to leave his cab.

When I said how fortunate it was that he had two colleagues there to help him, there were further excuses until they had to come out with the truth.

“This is common…It is simply not worthwhile to confront these people… I think of myself and my family and put them first... You never know when a knife will be whipped out… Too many of our drivers are being attacked…We just get on the radio if things get too bad.”

Sadly I had to agree that I saw their point. In 95% of the cases the matter would have been dealt with peacefully, but they did not want to take the risk.

If the powers that be really want people to use buses they will have to bring back conductors, but if this happens it seems that for the first time ever they will have to have protective clothing.

In Bombay where I've lived for spells over many years I never saw young people behaving badly. All buses had conductors and they were ‘masters of their ship'.

Even when the bus was amazingly crowded they managed to take every fare; some would make jokes which entertained all passengers - and how I regretted that my Hindi was not good enough to follow.

What to do? Yesterday came news of ‘talking CCTV' - surveillance cameras in Middlesbrough linked to a loudspeaker system which calls to vandals or those dropping litter to stop and make amends.

“Will the gentleman in the blue jacket please put the knife away.”

Would bringing back conductors persuade motorists out of their cars again? Or even makes buses safer for existing users? Leave a comment in the Miscellaneous section of our messageboard.

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