A NEW network of surveillance cameras on Stockton's buses means there is no hiding place for vandals and bullies.

That is the message from Stockton Borough Council and several bus companies who yesterday launched the first security camera system on buses in Tees Valley.

After years of vandalism and violence against passengers and drivers, the £80,000 project means eight buses are equipped with the cameras.

The cameras, all of which record digitally to give a clearer picture, are expected to help secure more convictions against law-breaking passengers.

They will also be used to catch fraudsters claiming bogus compensation for accidents that did not happen.

It is hoped that about 20 buses will be fitted with cameras by the end of this month. If successful, they may be introduced more widely across Teesside.

Councillor Jean O'Donnell, the mayor of Stockton borough, launched the scheme, which is being paid for by the Stockton Bus Quality Partnership, at Eaglescliffe's Oakwood Centre yesterday.

She said: "These cameras mean that those who engage in vandalism, attacks on drivers and other anti-social behaviour will be readily identified and prosecuted.

"We have identified school routes as particular troublespots and it is these buses that will be the first to receive the cameras."

Each bus could have as many as ten cameras operating, meaning troublemakers will find it almost impossible to avoid appearing on film.

Bus operators Arriva North-East, Stagecoach, Continental, Compass Royston and Leven Valley have signed up to the scheme.

David Cummings, of Cyberline, a Bishop Auckland company that will supply most of the cameras said: "These cameras have been used successfully to secure prosecutions in other places.

"Some bus companies have 120 cases going through the courts as we speak as a result of the cameras picking up incidents. They are not there for show, they are there to be used."

Every year, Teesside's bus companies lose thousands of pounds when they have to withdraw vandalised vehicles.