A BUS company has been forced to temporarily divert bus routes in Benfleet following a string of attacks which have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.

First Bus has been forced to divert three of its services which run through Benfleet as people have been throwing rocks through windows as they drive by.

First have also stated unless residents “take ownership” of the attacks – which have been carried out 12 times in Benfleet and Canvey since Christmas – the routes to and from the island will be removed.

The company first stated the option of axing the routes was on the table at the end of November, when three buses had windows smashed on Canvey.

Dan Worley, Operations Manager at First Hadleigh, said: “Since reporting a spate of incidents pre-Christmas involving criminal damage to our buses through broken windows and an assault on a bus driver on the route to Canvey island, we have experienced a further ten incidents, all of similar consequence.

“As the local bus operator in the area, I am putting out a final plea to the community to sort this problem out, before I am forced take drastic measures to remove our bus services from the area.

“We are in communication with the police and a letter is being sent to the local MP for their support, but local residents need to take some ownership with this matter if they want to continue receiving a bus service.

“It is not just the cost of the damage, even though it several thousand pounds since November that we have had to pay out, more importantly, it is the safety of customers who travel with us and our staff that we are concerned with.

“We should not have to endure this type of criminal activity when all we are doing is trying to provide a bus service to the local community of Canvey.”

Mr Worley added: “Due to a further two incidents on Thursday night we have taken the decision to temporarily divert all route 21s via the London Road missing Manor Trading estate after 6.30pm.

“In addition, services 22 and 28 will also be diverted to miss London Road between Pitsea and Saddlers Farm Roundabout after 6.30pm in both directions with services running via the A13.”