‘Epidemic’ of violence against staff could see bus and rail services curtailed
Union says antisocial behaviour and thuggery on public transport is on the rise
The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) says it simply cannot ‘stand idly by’ as attacks on its members continue.
Bus and rail services may be curtailed in certain parts of the country from this weekend if there is another serious attack on staff or antisocial behaviour, one of the country’s main transport unions has warned.
The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) on Friday said bus and rail services could be withdrawn from what it described as “particular black spots” from October 14th, in advance of Halloween.
However the union said services could be restricted before then if there were more attacks on staff or incidents of serious antisocial behaviour.
In his address to the union’s biennial conference in Cork, general secretary Dermot O’Leary said his members were tired of being fobbed off in relation to the security and safety of members.
He said while a debate at the conference spoke of curtailing services from October 14th, “there are absolutely no, and we mean no, guarantees that the timetabled services of our transport companies will be met in full over the intervening period”.
“Each incident from this day on might very well trigger a reaction from transport workers.”
“The level of antisocial behaviour and downright thuggery across our public transport system has reached epidemic proportions. We simply cannot, we simply will not, stand idly by and allow it to continue unchecked.”
A large majority of delegates at the conference in Cork said in a show of hands that they had personally witnessed or experienced assaults or antisocial behaviour.
Mr O’Leary said while the NBRU was not an expert on policing, it believed the Garda community unit could, with additional resources, incorporate a public transport element to address anti-social behaviour on buses.
He said the rail network (inclusive of trams) would require a significant Garda presence in the form of a UK-style transport police.
Mr O’Leary said Irish Rail had gone from a scenario in 2013 of 280 assaults on staff on its services to almost 900 last year.
“The stories are frightening: open drug use, some of the services have become drug corridors, physical assaults on revenue protection personnel, train hosts, train drivers, right across the system. No area is immune.”
Mr O’Leary said Irish Rail was at least trying to put some initiatives in place to assist including the provision of additional security personnel, CCTV coverage, alert systems, and greater liaison with gardaí.
Mr O’Leary said the number of assaults on staff at Dublin Bus since 2014 now exceeded 330.
He said Bus Éireann had gone from a situation where assaults on its network were as rare as hen’s teeth to one where “we have had serious assaults on drivers in Kildare, Navan, Drogheda, Busáras, issues in Loughrea, Cavan, Monaghan, the shocking pellet gun attack on a Bus Éireann driver here in Cork last week illustrates quite clearly the issues faced by frontline transport workers, on an almost daily basis.”
Mr O’Leary also warned of potential industrial action at Bus Éireann in the months ahead over employment in the company if it loses the rights to operate some commuter service in the eastern region which are being put out to tender under Government transport reforms.
The NBRU chief in his address strongly criticised Minister for Transport Shane Ross.
Mr O’Leary said the Minister’s stewardship of the transport system had been “an unmitigated disaster”.
“He is being led a merry dance by those he once deigned as mandarins”, he said.