Rail staff are now witnessing open drug taking, drug dealing, and fighting and intimidatory behaviour virtually every day on train services across the country.
And it must stop, they warn – or otherwise the National Bus and Rail Union says services could come to a halt ahead of Christmas, once workers have had the chance to ballot on possible strike action.
Reports of anti-social behaviour on board rail services jumped to 1,238 last year, with 12 reports of assaults on staff; up from 1,037 anti-social incidents the year before and from 462 cases in 2016.
Between June 2020 and June of this year, there were reports of 2,300 anti-social incidents, of which 369 were classed as “aggressive”, including 70 assaults on staff and customers.
A series of personal accounts provided by Irish Rail staff were sent on Thursday to senior company management and to Taoiseach Micheál Martin and the Minister for Justice:
One train host tells of her experience on board a train leaving Heuston in late August
Three males bombarded their way into first class. I asked them if they were booked in. One of them looked at me with utter disgust, as if to say who did I think I was. One of them wasn’t wearing a mask. I asked if he had one. He replied quite rudely and smart, saying that he didn’t and that he had probably dropped it.
I noticed a bag with bottles in it and asked the man did they have alcohol with them. Again, he replied quite rudely: “Yes, and what does it have to do with you?” Later I found out they had three bottles of whiskey.
The other man was over the guy’s shoulder saying “What is she on about?”, very aggressively. I explained there was no alcohol permitted on board any services due to Covid-19.
I felt extremely intimidated by these men. Things drastically changed with the man’s demeanour. At this stage I said: “You won’t be travelling today, can you step off the train please.” I felt this was the right call due to their aggressive nature towards me. At this moment I sensed things were about to escalate and asked my colleague to call security straight away. She already had her phone in her hand and left the carriage to do same.
The man was in my face and very confrontational. In fear of my safety and that of the passengers I asked him again to step off the train; I managed to get past, back into first class until security arrived.
[Two of the men] were abusive and threatening. One came over to me a few times saying “Sorry”, but then quietly threatened me saying he “was going to get me bad”. Another time [he said]: "I am going to ride you like a dirty dog" . . . He said he knew my face and I would be a “very sorry girl over this”.
Another train host recalls their experiences
I had a stinking man who was after soiling himself shouting and screaming into my face calling me “a f**king bitch”. I’m sick of seeing heroin being sorted out at the tables and put into bags by dealers who are dealing openly. I am terrified of what’s going to happen to me.
Another train host tells of her experience on board the Dublin/Cork train
A young lady got on the train in Mallow and was put into first class by a member of staff who informed me the young lady had been sexually assaulted on the train from Tralee to Mallow.
I could see this girl crying the whole train ride from Mallow to Cork, so I asked her if she was okay. She explained to me that the guards were called but nothing was done about the man. He was only told to get the train back to Tralee.
She was disgusted that staff allowed him to travel back, fearing he could do this to another person. She believed a lot more could have been done and was not happy with the way it was handled.
In another case, a train host tells of her experience on board the Dublin/Cork service in August
After Mallow station I did a walk through of my train, I was walking through the second-last carriage when I saw two people, a man and women in their mid-30s, engaging in a sexual act openly at a four-seater. This was at approximately 8.53pm. There was also other passengers sitting in that carriage too.
Myself and an off-duty member of staff confronted them. I then rang Limerick Junction station to let them know and that we would be getting them off the train at Limerick Junction station.
A customer service officer tells of her experience on board the Rosslare/Connolly service in June
In Wexford a man in his 60s joined the train with a friend. Both had a free travel card. He constantly asked me for my name and my number and if I was single. I told him that he was making me feel uncomfortable and asked him repeatedly to stop. He said: "Oh, I'll follow you up the train then." I told him to sit down. Once we got to Connolly I got off the train and he came up to me again. I texted security asking a colleague to come down as he kept getting closer to me. When the security lad come down he asked him what he was doing and he kept saying, "I seen something I liked, I want to get to know her." Then, he was thrown out of the station.
A revenue protection officer tells of his experience on board a Wicklow-bound train in July when a large number of ‘rough-looking’ passengers got on board in Connolly station
This man didn't have a ticket and kept removing his face covering. I asked him repeatedly to put it back on and told him the price of the ticket. He then started walking through the train asking people for money. He slammed the door in my face twice and then I called [a colleague] down to help me as the man started shouting and getting in my face. He pushed the door into [the colleague] and went to hit him, [the colleague] went to inform the driver and the man started stripping off saying he had bruises when it was plainly obvious he didn't. He caught my arm with a very sharp object (not sure what it was) [and] left marks down my arm so he was removed in Dún Laoghaire from the train, where he was continuing to shout abuse and threw his mask at me.