Public Safety on Irish Rail: Part One

DART and rail users – are you vexed by vandalism? Tired of tissue sellers? Disgusted by disruptive passengers? Or do you think your daily commute or weekend trip into town is among the safest journeys one could hope to take on public transport?

Using information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, The City looks at just how safe it is to travel by rail in Ireland – starting with the DART in the first of a two-part series which concludes next week looking at mainline journeys across the country.

Redacted figures show that since 2015 there have been 514 reported incidents of antisocial behaviour on the DART. 2017 and 2018 have seen huge increases in the number of incidents being reported compared to previous years, with over double the number of incidents compared to 2015 and 2016. This year is set to have the highest number of complaints yet – with 175 incidents reported by the 13th of October compared to 187 in the whole of 2017.

These rising figures support the recent calls for increased security on Irish public transport, with National Bus and Rail Union General Secretary Dermot O’Leary recently stating that: “It is no exaggeration to say that commuters and staff travelling and working on public transport are doing so in constant fear of either being attacked themselves, or witnessing various forms of anti-social behaviour, up to and including serious assault.”

The incident of antisocial behaviour which is most commonly reported on the DART is incidents involving disruptive passengers, with 216 reported since 2015, more than a third of the 514 total incidents reported. Once again 2018 is conclusively the worst year on record – reports of 48, 31 and 54 recorded in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively are relatively dwarfed in comparison to the 83 incidents involving disruptive passengers reported by early October of this year.

 

Vandalism is the next most common incident of antisocial behaviour that gets reported on DART services. There have been 125 reported incidents of vandalism since 2015, with 2017 and 2018 again almost lapping the previous two years in terms of figures. However, the high number of 49 incidents reported so far this year could partially be attributed to an incident at Clongriffin station on May 8th of this year, when around a dozen people in balaclavas boarded a train and caused €4,000 worth of damage in what Irish Rail described as “an unprecedented graffiti attack.”

Following vandalism closely in reported complaints are incidents of intimidation, with 122 such reports since 2015. Bucking the trend so far, 2018 looks set to improve upon the substantial figure of 58 incidents of intimidation in 2017, with just 26 reported so far this year.

While these figures are significant and a legitimate cause for concern, it is comforting for commuters to see that more serious incidents of theft and assault remain at a much lower level. A total of 19 assaults and 14 thefts have been reported in the redacted figures released to The City by Irish Rail, although incidents of theft in 2018 look set to surpass the highest figure of five reported in 2015, with an equal number reported as of October.

The issue of ‘tissue sellers’ has also sprung up on DART services since 2017. This involves a person putting an item such as a packet of tissues or a lighter on train seats, along with a printed note asking for money in return for the items, which the note says will go towards helping a sick family member.  

From the start of 2017 to October of this year there have been 13 recorded incidents of ‘tissue traders’ on DART services, although regular commuters will attest that figure is most likely higher. The Garda Press Office said that “An Garda Síochána have legislation available to deal with these matters”, referencing the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 2011.  

The Act states that if a person begs “while in a private place without the consent of the owner or occupier of the private place, he or she requests or solicits money or goods from another person or persons.” The Act also states that “a person who, while begging in any place harasses, intimidates, assaults or threatens any other person or persons is guilty of an offence and is liable, on summary conviction, to a class E fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or both.”

Speaking to The City NRBU General Secretary Dermot O’Leary said that he would like to see the implementation of a Garda Public Transport Division, with powers of arrest to act as a deterrent to disruptive passengers. “Antisocial incidents on public transport are rising year on year, and lots of our members aren’t even reporting some incidents because such behaviour has become normalised,” he said, adding that “Irish Rail is one very serious incident away from a situation where trains won’t operate in certain areas at certain times of the day.”

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