Bus services protest lack of guards

All of Israel's private bus companies threaten to remove fleets from central stations over terror fears.

bus security 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
bus security 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
All of Israel's private bus companies threatened on Monday to remove their fleets from central bus stations across the country if the government failed to reinstate a special public transport security service aimed at thwarting suicide bombings. The companies, which include well-known names such as Metropolin, Metrodan, Kavim, and Connex, said they would find alternative stations - less prone to terror attacks - after Pessah. "In light of our bitter experience in recent years, and the fact that the state refuses to fund security for buses and central stations, the companies have decided not to wait and risk the lives of their staff and passengers," a joint statement released by the transport companies said. "There are 700 million bus journeys a year, but these passengers have been abandoned," said Yuval Orly, a spokesman representing the companies. Last December, the Finance Ministry decided to terminate the Public Transport Security Unit, which manned bus stops and stations as a final barrier between would-be suicide bombers and buses. The Finance Ministry cited "estimates by the Counterterrorism Bureau" as the basis for the decision to cancel the unit. Before the cancellation, the state had provided around half (NIS 49 million) of the funding for the security service, while the other half (NIS 50m.) came from bus ticket sales. Bus fares were raised slightly to provide the necessary funding for the unit. "The security guards you see at central bus stations today are there only because they're being paid for [by] public bus companies like Egged and Dan. This funding will soon end, and the stations will remain without guards. That is unfathomable in Israel," Orly said. "The state is looking for every way possible duck its responsibility of protecting millions of passengers," he charged, describing present conditions as "immoral." While the alternative bus stations would also lack security guards, they would be situated in open spaces, making mass carnage less likely should they be bombed, Orly said. "The Finance Ministry has even expressed willingness to partially fund the service again," Orly claimed. "But Transportation Minister [Shaul] Mofaz and Public Security Minister [Avi] Dichter are playing ping-pong with the security of bus passengers, each passing the buck to the other." "With all the hostile terror threats lurking in background, with Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Pessah holiday up ahead, the lives of passengers have been abandoned. No one is listening. Only on the day that terrorists strike will someone take an interest," Orly added. Neither the Public Security Ministry nor the Transportation Ministry responded to requests for comment on Monday.