A dedicated unit within An Garda Síochána must be established to tackle the rising incidents of anti-social behaviour and abuse experienced by staff and customers on our public transport, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Deputy Alan Farrell said, “We need to see Gardaí patrolling our buses, trains, Darts and Luas. Incidents of verbal and physical abuse continue to rise on public transport, and real action in the form of high visibility policing must be taken to ensure the very basics of personal safety onboard.
“Safety on public transport is, in many ways, a gendered issue. According to a report from Transport Infrastructure Ireland, 34% of women have stated that feelings of insecurity have prevented them from travelling – with a lack of safety infrastructure exacerbating these feelings.
“A shocking 6 in 10 women don’t feel safe taking the bus. Safety at night is of particular concern to women – over half (55%) of women wouldn’t use public transport after dark.
“As part of a dedicated public transport unit within the Gardaí, a strong police presence onboard trains and buses at night is necessary.
“This is not an issue that only impacts women, or solely affects public transport users. Today, we’re seeing personal accounts in the media of what Irish Rail staff experience on a regular basis as part of their work. Drug dealing and taking, as well as verbal and physical abuse, seem to now be par for the course of travelling and working on public transport.
“Staff have told of being threatened, intimated, physically abused and harassed. One staff member recounted how a young woman had been sexually assaulted on the Dublin-Cork train, with the perpetrator just being told to get the train back to Tralee.
“These workers are terrified. We have workplace protections in place to safeguard staff in pretty much all other professional environments – so how can we expect the people who keep our trains and buses on the road to put their personal safety on the line, day in day out?
“In the four years to 2020, reports of anti-social behaviour on rail services almost tripled from 462 cases in 2016 to 1,238 last year. We’ve seen efforts to tackle this issue in the past, including the establishment of a ‘live’ text alert system on the Dart in 2019, but yet the numbers continue to increase.
“We need to get serious about tackling this issue to ensure the safety of both staff and customers onboard. How can we encourage people to make the switch to public transport, if we can’t guarantee the basics of safety and protection onboard our Dart, Luas, buses, and trains?
“The presence of Gardaí on our public transport will send a clear and unequivocal message, that anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated and that perpetrators will face consequences for their actions. Our transport system is for everyone, we cannot accept a situation whereby families, women, the elderly or anyone travelling alone, fears for their personal safety.
“Positive progress has been made by my colleague Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys recently in the area of policing. I was delighted to see the recruitment of 800 new Gardaí announced in Budget 2022, along with 400 additional civilian Garda staff to support Gardaí in their duties. I also look forward to the launch of a new Garda operation to tackle anti-social behaviour in the coming days.
“A dedicated unit to police public transport, including stations and stops, must now be established within An Garda Síochána. The presence An Gardaí aboard our trains and buses will not only provide peace of mind for staff members and users, it will also crucially deter anti-social behaviour and abuse,” Deputy Farrell concluded.