Bus, rail and Luas workers report death threats, stone throwing and passenger cocaine and heroin use

Siptu officials and union members at Dublin Bus, Irish Rail and Luas to appear before Oireachtas committee as part of campaign for establishment of dedicated transport policing unit

Almost 75 per cent of bus and train drivers in Ireland witness drug abuse on public transport several times a month, members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications will be told on Wednesday.

Siptu officials along with members of the union working across Dublin Bus, Irish Rail and Luas services will appear before the committee to relay their experiences as part of Siptu’s ongoing campaign for the establishment of a dedicated transport policing unit.

The proposal had previously been rejected by both the companies involved and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, who said antisocial issues on transport should be dealt with by An Garda Síochána.

The Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, previously expressed support for that position.


At the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis last weekend, however, Tánaiste Micheál Martin indicated the Government now favours the idea and that work on proposals to be brought forward by the Coalition is under way.

At Wednesday’s committee appearance, Siptu members will provide first-hand accounts of the challenges they encounter, while the union will also present the latest round of findings from ongoing surveys of drivers and other staff.

Its latest research, which includes responses from about 650 drivers and other passenger-facing transport staff, found that almost 75 per cent of them witness drug abuse on public transport several times a month, with 20 per cent saying it was a nearly daily occurrence.

Almost four in every five members of staff said the problem had become worse in the last 12 months.

In a majority of cases the drug involved was believed to be cannabis, but a third of drivers and other staff reported having witnessed the use of cocaine, with a similar number saying they had seen heroin use.

Almost three quarters (73 per cent) said they felt unsafe in the course of their work due to the widespread use of drugs, and among those from ethnic minorities, a similar number said they had been the target of racist abuse.

Previous research had highlighted the incidence of racial and sexual assaults in public transport settings, with one driver telling The Irish Times she had had female passengers report male passengers masturbating on the bus.

Other drivers reported having had stones and other missiles thrown at their buses or trams, and being spat at. Refusal by passengers to pay fares was said to be a routine occurrence, and ticket inspectors on the Luas have spoken of receiving death threats when they try to check tickets on trams.

Speaking at the weekend, Mr Martin said the Government now believed “a targeted approach is needed”.

Transport police units do operate in a number of other European capital cities, including London, but their operation is sometimes regarded as cumbersome by staff if requiring urgent assistance.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times