Anti-Social Behaviour on Public Transport

Fri, Mar 22, 2024

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Neasa asking the Minister for Transport about his plans to address anti-social behaviour and abuse directed at workers on the public transport network.


Neasa Hourigan TD: I ask the Minister to provide an update on plans to address antisocial behaviour and the abuse of drivers and workers on public transport.

Minister for Transport: Like Deputy Hourigan, I take the safety and security of transport workers and passengers very seriously. It is an unfortunate truth that public transport is not immune to instances of antisocial behaviour and those who work within our public transport network are among those most directly impacted.

To address this, the NTA, An Garda Síochána and the operators work closely to promote order and safety on public transport services and to this end, each of the operators has introduced a number of measures in recent years to help combat the issue. Irish Rail, for example, has increased spending on security by more than 70%, from €3.7 million in 2016 to €6.3 million last year. On the bus network, the entire Dublin Bus fleet is fully fitted with CCTV cameras and radios for immediate contact with a central control centre. More broadly, An Garda Síochána established a new transport hub in the national train control centre at Heuston station and is conducting more patrols in affected areas, while the NTA has published a public transport passenger security report. Despite these efforts, it remains an ongoing issue for the sector. In 2023, a total of 2,791 incidents of anti-social behaviour were recorded and while these occurred in the context of more than 308 million passenger journeys last year, this remains an unacceptable number. SIPTU, in its Respect Transport Workers campaign, highlighted some of the issues faced by public transport workers on a day-to-day basis, including issues of vandalism and verbal abuse.

I look forward to meeting representatives of SIPTU to discuss these issues and the findings of their recent survey of members. To conclude, my Department and the NTA will continue to engage regularly with operators on this issue to ensure the safety and security of staff on public transport.

Neasa Hourigan TD: I welcome that information, particularly that the Minister will be meeting with SIPTU on this issue. I was lucky enough to go to the bus depot in Summerhill to look at the electric buses recently, which are fantastic to see. One of the issues we discussed was the need to attract more women into the service. One of the big barriers to that is the need to communicate to the public or those who might be seeking employment in the service that it is a safe job for women, and indeed that it is safe for women in general to use public transport with their children. The perception that public transport might not always be safe is a barrier in terms of gender and diversity and in terms of those with different abilities. It might, in fact, be a barrier to organisations like Bus Éireann attracting female drivers and a barrier to their project of getting more mná into the service.

Minister for Transport: Like the Deputy, I visited Summerhill bus station recently and I agree on the progress being made in the provision of services. Similarly, I got the message that a shortage of mechanics, as well as drivers, is a real issue. We do have to resolve that, and we can and will.

To go into the detail of some of the figures, so people have an understanding of this antisocial behaviour, I referred to 2,791 incidents. Dublin Bus transported 145 million passengers last year and there was something like 621 incidents of antisocial behaviour. Bus Éireann transported some 44 million passengers and the figure was 372. Go-Ahead buses transported about 16 million passengers and the figure was 320. On the Luas, which transported 48.2 million passengers, there were 748 incidents. On Irish Rail, which transported 45.5 million passengers, there were some 704 incidents of antisocial behaviour. We have to look at each category of public transport. Also, as the Deputy will agree, we have to look at the experience of the passenger when they are waiting at the bus stop or railway station. The safety issue does not just relate to when people are on the vehicle. Particularly for women, it is very important that we get a safe environment around the service.

Neasa Hourigan TD: To reiterate, part of that is a perception of safety. I would not endeavour to speak for SIPTU but one thing that might be useful would be to have a transport stakeholder forum where unions can work with the Department to ensure that across the board, across all of our public transport, there is a perception that you are safe when you use a bus, a Luas or a Local Link, that you are protected and have nothing to fear, and that you can also take up a job in those industries and be safe and protected.

We have a security contingent in Dublin Airport that works well. It is not the same as the Garda but its members can detain anybody who is guilty of posing a threat to others. We need a joined-up process and strategy as people move more towards public transport into the future.

Minister for Transport: I agree. To give background, the NTA did establish a working group on antisocial behaviour, which meets monthly. It works with the operators and looks at the trends among public transport operators to share best practice. I mentioned those various operators. My Department and key public transport stakeholders also presented to the Department of Justice’s antisocial behaviour forum that took place in June last year. I agree with the Deputy. The SIPTU campaign which was launched, I think, on 20 February, their involvement and engagement is critical, as is that of An Garda Síochána. A lot of people have been arguing for institutional change in terms of separate traffic police and so on, or indeed others than the Garda taking on that role. I do not think that is the right approach. I do think it is a matter for An Garda Síochána working with the operators. The fact that they are now located in the main national train centre down at Heuston Station will increase that level of responsiveness. It does merit ongoing collaboration between the various users and stakeholders.