Sharp increase in physical assaults on Irish Rail trains

The number of physical attacks reported on trains increased from nine to 43 last year

Last year 43 incidents of physical assault were reported on Irish Rail trains, up from nine reports in 2016.  Photograph: Eric Luke

Last year 43 incidents of physical assault were reported on Irish Rail trains, up from nine reports in 2016. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

The number of passengers reporting physical assaults on Irish Rail trains increased significantly last year in a pattern that has led to calls for additional security on trains.

Last year 43 incidents of physical assault were reported on Irish Rail trains, up from nine reports in 2016.

So far this year there has been 26 recorded assaults on trains, according to figures obtained by The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information (FoI) act.

The number of robberies reported on trains increased from three last year, to 10 to date in 2018.

However, the number of reported verbal assaults has steadily decreased over the last five years. In 2014 there was 25 reports of verbal abuse on trains, which dropped to 14 in 2016, just one report last year, and none so far this year.

The figures come as the National Bus and Rail Union (NRBU) has called for a transport division of An Garda Síochána to police trains.

Dermot O’Leary, NBRU general secretary, said train drivers have been reporting an increase in incidents of anti social behaviour and assaults year on year.

“I think perhaps the time has come for a dedicated transport police force, potentially a division of the Gardaí,” he said.

“I know there will be issues around funding, as there always is when you talk about extra services,” he told The Irish Times.

Anti social behaviour

On Sunday, RTÉ’s This Week programme revealed there were over 700 incidents of anti social behaviour on rail lines last year, up from 492 recorded incidents in 2016.

Responding to the concerns, Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny said they have beefed up their safety measures, following recent increases in anti social behaviour.

“Society has a problem with anti social behaviour. I don’t think it disproportionately affects us - but obviously the issue when you’re on a train or other modes of transport, when you’re in a confined space, it is very alarming for both customers and employees who are exposed to it,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.

“We have 22 per cent more security patrols, and we work very closely with the Gardaí themselves in terms of where we have recurring issues.

“We have 45.5 million journeys every year - the vast, vast majority of them occur without any incident, and our job is to make sure that the incidents that do occur are reduced,” he said.

Currently Irish Rail do not have any staff assigned to provide security on trains or at stations, and instead hire contractors to carry out the work.

The company refused FoI requests for figures on how much it spent hiring security contractors over the last five years, citing commercial sensitivity. But it is understood the annual cost is in excess of €3 million.