Train drivers' alcohol limit four times higher than taxi and bus drivers'

‘Something fell between the gaps’ says department official

In the last three years 710 Iarnród Éireann employees have had random testing for intoxicants, with eight positive results. File photograph: David Sleator

In the last three years 710 Iarnród Éireann employees have had random testing for intoxicants, with eight positive results. File photograph: David Sleator

 

Current legislation which permits train drivers and other railway workers to have four times more alcohol in their blood than other professional drivers “fell between the gaps”, an Oireachtas Committee has heard.

Train and tram drivers are currently allowed a limit of 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, in comparison to 20 milligrams for a ‘specified person’ such as taxi, bus and truck drivers and 50 milligrams for an ordinary car driver.

The Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport was on Wednesday examining the general scheme of the Railway Safety (Amendment) Bill 2018, which sets out to bring the alcohol limits for train drivers and other railway safety critical workers in line with professional drivers.

Maev Nic Lochlainn, principal officer at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport said the disparity came to light among her divisional colleagues in recent years.

“There are people who do road traffic legislation and there are people who consider railway legislation so somewhere obviously, something fell between the gaps,” she told the Committee.

“The intention is not only to update the limits but also to ensure that there’s a connection back to the limits in the road traffic acts so that automatically if there’s an amendment on the road traffic side, either in relation to statutory alcohol limits or in relation to concentrations of drugs, that this will carry through straight away.”

Delays

She said delays in changing the limits occurred after the department initially thought it could use a secondary piece of legislation but was later advised primary legislation was needed.

Fine Gael senator Frank Feighan said he welcomed the bill adding “I think maybe we weren’t keeping our eye on the ball”.

The Committee heard in the last three years 710 Iarnród Éireann employees have had random testing for intoxicants, with eight positive results.

Four Luas safety critical workers have had positive results since its commencement in 2004 and none of these continued in employment or returned to work for Transdev.

Ms Nic Lochlainn said it is her understanding that “some” but not all of the eight Iarnród Éireann workers who tested positive were dismissed.

“Random testing is conducted by a contracted body to the two rail companies, they don’t have the expertise themselves,” she said.

“It is part of the contract that a worker can arrive at work and be expected to take a test but it would be unreasonable if they’re in the middle of doing the task.”

The Committee said it will seek written submissions from the rail companies regarding specific information on positive intoxicant tests and adjourned proceedings until July 4th.