Surge in complaints over Irish Rail passengers flouting Covid restrictions

Passengers not wearing face masks and overcrowding among issues highlighted

The State rail operator dealt with 96 complaints about Covid-19 measures over the most recent four-week period. Photograph: iStock

The State rail operator dealt with 96 complaints about Covid-19 measures over the most recent four-week period. Photograph: iStock

 

Complaints about passengers flouting mandatory requirements to wear face masks on Irish Rail services have increased significantly since the start of the year, latest figures have shown.

The State rail operator dealt with 96 complaints about Covid-19 measures over the most recent four-week period – more than three every day. The figure is up from 14 around February.

About 90 per cent of complaints about coronavirus restrictions include passengers not wearing face masks, the company said.

In some cases, gardaí have been called to remove train passengers refusing to wear coverings.

Dozens of irate passengers have complained on social media over recent weeks about masks not being worn on services between Dublin and Belfast, Galway, Waterford, Wexford and Cork.

Noeleen Hartigan, who was on a morning service between the capital and Wexford on Wednesday, said on Twitter that on one carriage “half the people were either not wearing masks or wearing under their noses”.

Ms Hartigan said she “politely asked” three passengers not wearing face masks to put them on and that “two were rude but complied, one point-blank refused”.

“This is not my job,” she said.

Responding to another complaint on Twitter, Irish Rail said its staff “are not responsible for enforcing this and we are calling for our passengers to show personal responsibility and follow the mandatory requirement to wear a face covering where it applies to them.”

While Covid-related complaints have dropped significantly since a monthly peak of 256 last year, there has been a steady rise since February this year, apart from a dip around May.

Face coverings are mandatory on Irish Rail services unless customers are medically exempted under the regulations.

Company spokesman Barry Kenny said complaints about regulations being breached are “growing broadly in line with the reopening of the economy.”

“Employees and our security contractors are asked to work with our customers to ensure compliance through co-operation, by engaging with them and encouraging the use of face coverings,” he said.

“We also undertake joint operations with Gardaí, and have received excellent support and response from Gardaí where escalation of issues is needed, in rare instances where customers are behaving in a manner which disregards the health of other customers or employees.”

Capacity

Responding to complaints of overcrowding on some services, Mr Kenny said Irish Rail was continuously monitoring passenger numbers to make sure it is operating within the 75 per cent capacity restrictions in place.

While this was “comfortably the case for the overwhelming majority of services”, there are issues around people travelling together in individual carriages, which staff were working to resolve, he said.

About half of normal passenger numbers are using Dart and commuter services, but figures rise at weekends and during sunny weather, when extra services are put on.

Intercity services are seeing about 65 per cent of pre-pandemic demand, with figures increasing again at weekends and “as the economy and domestic tourism has reopened, and as sporting attendance at major events has increased”.

“In some instances, reports of crowding have ultimately seen passenger numbers on board overall within 75 per cent capacity, but there is an issue with groups choosing to travel together, resulting in some capacity issues in individual carriages, which our on-board personnel work to resolve,” Mr Kenny said.

On Tuesday, Susan Tomaselli tweeted that she was “alarmed” at the number of people on the 13.20 Belfast to Dublin Enterprise service “with either masks on wrists or dangling from one ear”.

On Saturday, Mark Kenny, travelling on the 19.00 service from Dublin to Cork, tweeted: “What’s the point in having a stay safe message when your staff utterly turn a blind eye. Second train of the day, [and] at least two openly maskless groups of lads drinking.”

The same day, Laura Kinsella on the Waterford to Dublin route said the service had “become the most horrendous place to be”.

“People blaring music so loud that older people move carriage, many not wearing masks, children running riot and constantly no seats and people left standing,” she tweeted.