Extra gardaí on trains to tackle rise in antisocial behaviour

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said to be ‘concerned’ and taking issue ‘very seriously’

Complaints about anti-social behaviour on the Dart almost doubled last year to 96 from 52 the previous year.

Complaints about anti-social behaviour on the Dart almost doubled last year to 96 from 52 the previous year.

 

Extra gardaí are set to be deployed on trains in the coming months following a significant increase in reports of harassment and antisocial behaviour, Irish Rail has said.

The increased security follows the release of figures which show more than 560 passengers made formal complaints last year about intimidation, vandalism, assault, begging and theft on Irish Rail services.

Complaints about anti-social behaviour on the Dart almost doubled last year to 96 from 52 the previous year.

Sarah-Jane Murphy, writing in The Irish Times on Monday, described her experience of harassment after she was surrounded by a group of young men on the Dart as she travelled alone from Dún Laoghaire during lunchtime.

When the issue of violence and disorder on trains became a concern following a number of high profile incidents last year, it was suggested a new transport police or a unit within the Garda for policing public transport would be created.

However, when the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland reported last September, it made no such recommendations.

Garda sources said no effort had been made to establish a unit in the Garda to tackle crime on trains since then. However, the same sources said gardaí had been deployed more frequently onto those services where violence or disorder had flared.

Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny said the Garda has been attending a stakeholder forum on railway safety which is examining ways to tackle the issue. “There are some very intensive high profile presences from the gardaí planned for the summer,” he said.

“The gardaí have proposed a number of initiatives that will see an increase in their presence and that will help the public transport networks more widely address the issue of antisocial behaviour.

“Initially there will be a high profile campaign over a four day period, not unlike what the gardaí do with road safety campaigns or drink driving campaigns. This will be about preventing antisocial behaviour on public transport.

“We’ve also worked with the gardaí and event organisers to ensure additional Garda resources at major events, both at stations and travelling on trains or other public transport to support our own security personnel.”

‘Rampant’

Mr Kenny said gardaí currently take part in patrols with Irish Rail security staff on a monthly basis to deal with antisocial behaviour. He denied that a lack of resources were a factor in the increase in reports.

“Over the last couple of years the trend has gone the wrong way, but funding levels have also been increased to the levels required, so financial resources are not a concern for us in addressing this,” he said.

“It’s about deploying the resources we have correctly using technology like the text system proposed to support the additional patrols that are out there. We would expect that customers will experience an improvement.”

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said the deployment of gardaí was solely a matter for Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, but added that the force, the Department of Justice, and Minister for Transport Shane Ross are “liaising” on how to tackle the issue.

“The minister is concerned to ensure that the necessary arrangements are in place to ensure the safety of all passengers and staff travelling and working on our public transport network and takes this matter very seriously,” he said.

“The minister understands that An Garda Síochána has also met with the Railway Safety Advisory Council in relation to the issue of anti-social behaviour on our public transport network and that further engagement and initiatives are planned.”

National Bus and Rail Union general secretary Dermot O’Leary said antisocial behaviour was “rampant” on trains.

“There’s not a day goes by where staff or passengers are not verbally or physically assaulted,” he said. “It’s unacceptable for it to take a serious injury, or worse, before action is taken on this issue.

“We have a situation where the Cork Dublin line has been turned into a drug running or drug courier service. Drivers on a daily basis witness people getting on and off trains and handing over drugs to people waiting for them.”