Dart drivers may withdraw services due to antisocial behaviour

Drivers consider not operating northside services on Friday evenings and at weekends

Eyewitness footage captures an "unprecedented graffiti attack" on a Dart at the Clongriffin Station in north Dublin. Video: Stephen Curtis

 

Drivers on Dublin’s Dart trains will consider withdrawing their services on Friday evenings and over weekends if continuing anti-social behaviour puts their safety and that of customers at risk, a union representative has said.

Unions and drivers are monitoring such incidents ahead of an expected sunny spell next week which is likely to attract thousands of people to the coast.

Irish Rail has increased security in some areas after a spate of anti-social behaviour on trains in recent weeks, including an alleged fight on a train following the Liam Gallagher concert at Malahide Castle last Friday.

In another incident last month, gardai investigated allegations that a teenage boy allegedly threatened students with what they reported to be a gun.

There have been more than 1,000 separate incidents of anti-social behaviour recorded by Irish Rail since the start of last year, including 20 assaults on staff.

A spokesman for Irish Rail said it had been liaising with drivers and representatives on anti-social behaviour and security concerns and was increasing security.

Stopping northside trains

He confirmed drivers’ representatives had warned they would consider stopping northside train services from Connolly Station to Howth on Friday evenings and over weekends if their concerns were not addressed.

General secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union, Dermot O’Leary, said union representatives were currently monitoring the situation, which was “fluid”.

He said if staff felt their safety and the safety of customers was at risk, they would have “no compunction” but to consider withdrawing their services.

Speaking separately on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show on Friday, Mr O’Leary said a wide variety of staff were impacted by anti-social behaviour across the State, including drivers, revenue protection agents, station platform staff and booking office staff.

He said it was not exclusive to one area, although there were some “hot-spots” in recent years.

Mr O’Leary said Dublin Bus had also had unfortunate experiences of such behaviour over the years, including as recently as a few days ago, and had been forced to withdraw services.

“I would never apologise for putting the safety of my members and indeed the public first before services,” he said.

The NBRU recently wrote to Minister for Transport Shane Ross to ask him to consider establishing a dedicated transport police force.

Mr O’Leary said he did not want to stigmatise any area, but there was a problem in Harmonstown and Kilbarrack on the north side of Dublin.

“It does happen across the country and it’s a reflection of where we’re going as a society, unfortunately,” he said.

Good weather

Mr O’Leary said the good weather attracted “a certain element in terms of anti social behaviour”.

He said if the problems could not be addressed with the initiatives suggested by the company then the union would “have to look at the situation over the weekend and into next week”.

He said the union appreciated the company’s actions in relation to security.

Speaking on the same programme, Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny said the company met drivers’ representatives to discuss the issue this week.

It had also been liaising with gardaí and had increased security patrols over the last two years by 20 per cent and more needed to be done on that.

Mr Kenny said transport patterns changed quite significantly at this time of year. The weather forecast for the week ahead meant there would be “specific issues” to address.

Drivers and other staff reported issues to the company’s security and to its private security contractors as well.

“There is a balance in this. Most journeys happen without incident, but the fact is we have a growing issue of anti social behaviour, that does need to be addressed,” he said.

Mr Kenny said drinking alcohol was not permitted on the Dart and security personnel could confiscate alcohol from people on Dart and commuter services.

He said there would be extra security over the summer season particularly around the beach destinations in north Dublin, including Sutton, Howth and Portmarnock.