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Monday 19 August 2019

Garda blitz on trains and buses to tackle increasing disruption

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Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Gardai are to launch a new plan to tackle anti-social behaviour and crime on public transport following a meeting with a leading safety agency.

Notes obtained by the Sunday Independent of a meeting of the Railway Safety Advisory Council (RSAC) - a body with a role similar to the Health and Safety Authority - show gardai will travel on trains and breach geographical boundaries as part of a four-day show of strength against hoodlums and criminals.

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A separate crime-prevention survey will also take place in Dublin and at two other locations to see what can be done to address increasing disruption on passenger journeys.

These will include an urban and rural location to assess the different needs in certain areas.

Garda Superintendent Kevin Daly, a senior officer in the community-relations division, met key industry stakeholders at the RSAC last month.

It was agreed a publicity campaign was necessary to highlight the issue of anti-social behaviour and the involvement of stakeholders to tackle the issue on trains, buses and trams.

The deployment of gardai on trains and buses has been an issue because the travelling involved would lead to members of the force going into other geographical areas and garda divisions.

The National Bus and Railway Union (NBRU) has previously called for the establishment of a specialist garda transport unit but this idea was shot down by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary said he was concerned "a serious injury or worse will have to happen" before further action is taken to protect drivers and passengers.

"Bank holiday weekends are coming one on top of the other now and the weather changes," he said. "That can bring more problems for people travelling on trains and buses. Something needs to be done before it goes too far."

Irish Rail said it was concerned about an "upward trend of instances of anti-social behaviour". There were 803 incidents recorded on its services last year, up from 703 in 2017 and 492 in 2016.

A spokeswoman said most passenger journeys passed without incident. "We are working closely with the gardai on this issue. We have also deployed more contracted security teams on our services and at stations to reduce the number of instances of anti-social behaviour," she told the Sunday Independent.

"We are also in the process of introducing on-board customer-service agents on all inter-city services, which we believe will assist with this problem."

Bus Eireann said that the number of incidents on its services was low, adding: "Most anti-social behaviour occurs in city locations from late evening onwards."

It has also reported concerns about stone-throwing incidents in Cork and Limerick. CCTV has been rolled out across its fleet and drivers have two-way radio communication with a control centre and an emergency button.

A source told the Sunday Independent that gardai in parts of Dublin have been told by senior officers to board buses and come off at the next stop to increase visibility across the network in recent weeks.

Dublin Bus said anti-social behaviour was down 18pc on its services.

Sunday Independent

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