Connolly among stations with most text alerts for antisocial behaviour

Booterstown and Lansdowne Road also see most passenger alerts for intimidation, fighting

Connolly Station is among stations with the most text alerts from passengers. Photo: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Connolly Station is among stations with the most text alerts from passengers. Photo: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

 

Dublin’s Connolly, Booterstown and Lansdowne Road stations are the worst for passenger warnings about antisocial behaviour, intimidation and on-board fighting, newly obtained figures show.

Pearse Station, Sandymount, Sydney Parade and Dún Laoghaire – all on the capital’s southside – recorded the next highest number of distressing incidents reported by commuters to security through Irish Rail’s text-alert system.

Bray and Portmarnock had the lowest number of alerts from the start of the year until September.

The figures also reveal 47 separate alerts about passengers not adhering to social distancing and mask-wearing regulations to combat the spread of Covid-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Irish Rail launched the “live” text-alert system for Dart passengers last year after a sharp rise in formal complaints of intimidation, assaults, vandalism and thefts.

Latest figures released to The Irish Times show incidents of drug-taking, smoking and drinking on carriages account for 121 – more than a third – of all 356 alerts up until September.

Causing disturbances

Young people causing disturbances was the second most frequent alert (71), followed by the flouting of coronavirus restrictions. There were 44 alerts about aggressive behaviour and verbal abuse, 21 about passengers fighting, and 10 about vandalism.

Six passengers alerted security about an attempted theft during the year to September, while there were five separate complaints about commuters being targeted in a “tissue-seller” scam.

This involves packets of tissues being placed on seats and anyone touching a packet is pressured to buy it – sometimes under intimidation – at an inflated price. There have been a number of arrests in connection with the scam in recent years.

A spokesman for Irish Rail said there was also one complaint during the year in relation to the operation of the text-alert system.

February was the worst month for complaints, with 82 alerts received by security – a rate of almost three a day on the Dart line. Alerts dramatically declined during the first lockdown when services were severely curtailed and people were ordered to stay at home.

They rose again to 56 in July – the second highest monthly number – before dipping again to 35 in August, a rate of more than one a day.

Passenger numbers

Mark Gleeson of Rail Users Ireland said the figures are artificially low because of a collapse in passenger numbers during the pandemic, restrictions on Dublin’s beaches over the summer and the closure of pubs and nightclubs. “Given the number of passengers travelling, and that it should only be passengers travelling for essential reasons, these numbers are concerning, and I think they would be three times that in a normal year,” he said. “Part of the problem is we have no transport police in Ireland.

“The current security staff, if you can find them, don’t have any authority. They can intimidate by standing over someone and making things a bit uncomfortable but they really can’t do very much. They need to be given some legal powers, unless we follow the rest of Europe and have a dedicated transport police or a dedicated unit of the gardaí to respond to these incidents,” he added.

Mr Gleeson said at a time when more people should be encouraged to switch to public transport, the scale of alerts “does not present evidence of a safe system where people are going to have a nice, comfortable journey.”

While concerned about all alerts, Rail Users Ireland was “gravely concerned” about the number of incidents of aggressive behaviour, verbal abuse and fighting, he added.

Mr Gleeson blamed the high incidence of drinking-related misbehaviour on the absence of any law or by-law banning the consumption of alcohol on trains, adding that on a Saturday afternoon recently he was seated on the Dart near three men aged in their 30s who were drinking and not wearing face masks.