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Airline pilot describes being harassed on the Sligo/Dublin train

Passengers on the Sligo to Dublin train have long been witness to anti-social behaviour, violent altercations and drug use. One Sligo rail user outlines his train experiences.

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Passengers have voiced their concern about regular anti-social behaviour on the Sligo to Dublin train.

Passengers have voiced their concern about regular anti-social behaviour on the Sligo to Dublin train.

Passengers have voiced their concern about regular anti-social behaviour on the Sligo to Dublin train.

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A Sligo Iarnród Éireann passenger has outlined witnessing excessive anti-social behaviour and described the Sligo to Dublin train line as the worst facility he has experienced in his entire life.

Charles Kilawee, an airline pilot from Dromore West, has been a regular user of the train for the last number of years and spoke to The Sligo Champion about his experiences with violent and abusive harassment, disrespectful behaviour in front of disabled passengers, excessive use of alcohol and loud music, as well as difficulties relating to accessibility and cleanliness when vacating the service.

He says that as a 33-year-old male passenger his main concern is for others who are forced to use the service such as children, the elderly, disabled, and those who are visiting Ireland from other countries. His job means he has to travel to and from Dublin regularly and the rising cost of fuel is making it less viable to drive every time, as a result of this he says he is witnessing more abhorrent behaviour than ever before and felt a need to speak out on the issue.

The most recent incident occurred just last month with Charles stating he was harassed, threatened, and intimidated on a Sligo to Dublin afternoon service.

“I had my headphones on, and I was just busy working on my computer. For some reason, two male individuals sitting at the adjacent table thought I was ‘looking at them’ and repeatedly threatened to ‘follow me off the train and bash me into a pulp’,” he said.

“I feared so much for my safety that I ultimately had to move to the front of the train and press the emergency button to alert staff of my situation.”

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Charles says he was apprehensive to press the emergency button but his provokers were trying to get a reaction from him, that they wanted to start a fight and when he did not give them the reaction they wanted they would not leave him alone.

“I didn’t take the decision to press the button lightly, I had previously knocked on the drivers door but there was no answer. I understand why he didn’t open because in my profession you never open the cockpit door, there could be a genuine reason.

The staff were alerted to Charles’ situation and he moved to another part of the train, but he still felt uneasy as the men who threatened him knew he was just one carriage in front of them. Charles says that he would have felt a lot more comfortable if there was a way to alert staff about the situation without the aggressors seeing he had pressed the button.

“In other countries on the train there is a messaging system that you can use to text discreetly, nobody needs to know, you can contact the conductor, it’s then dealt with at the next station. You don’t have to put your neck on the line. It shouldn’t come to this type of situation, you should feel comfortable,” he said.

“I’m old enough to fight my own corner but I am not like everyone, there’s a lot of women and children on these trains, there’s elderly people and these guys just want trouble.”

Charles says the altercation was entirely verbal and he imagines that other passengers would have intervened and called for help if his aggressors had followed through with their threats and began psychically assaulting him. He says he was later told that the emergency button should only be used in extreme situations but that he was trying to pre-emptively stop an extreme situation from occurring.

“They say that button is only for extreme emergencies but how do you define extreme when you are being threatened. I am not the type of person who wants to be involved in fighting, I just want a simple journey,” he said.

Charles stated on another occasion he was on the busy train service and was sitting at the wheelchair accessible table along with a wheelchair user when they witnessed an obscene display between two passengers.

“They did not care who saw them and the unpleasant situation they put the wheelchair user in. I would have liked to move but I felt compelled to stay with the wheelchair user because he was not able to move elsewhere. There was no conductor on the train,” he said.

Also a regular occurrence is excessive drinking of alcohol and loud music from some passengers as well drugs and illicit substances being presented in plain sight. Charles outlined a passenger on one of his journeys who boarded at Carrick-on-Shannon and sat at the same table as him.

“He lined three mobile phones out on the table and emptied the contents of his rucksack on the table in front of me with what appeared to be cocaine wrapped in small balls of cling film and proceeded to count them,” he said.

Charles highlighted issues with stolen property on the train and says that passengers should not be encouraged to place their personal belongings on the baggage racks out of sight and near the doors.

“I had a recent conductor say I could not have my small bag at the storage over my head. I thought I am not putting my bag down at the end of the carriage where I can’t see it. There’s definitely a problem with bags and property being stolen,” he said.

Charles outlined major points of concern for Sligo passengers when they complete their journey and arrive at Connolly Station such as the escalators at the main entrance usually not being operational when he arrives, while this is ‘grossly inconvenient and arduous’ for him, he says that he can only imagine how difficult it is for those with reduced mobility.

He stated the area around the station is a hot spot for anti-social behaviour and he finds it extremely uncomfortable to have to make his way out of the station while carrying expensive electronics and personal items in his bag.

“The cleanliness of the train station and its environs leaves a lot to be desired, from rubbish, unpleasant stains, smell of urine in the elevator next to the Luas and indeed weeds along the front of the iconic building and its curtilage,” he said.

The most frustrating thing, according to Charles, is that our public transport services are one of the first things tourists encounter when they enter Ireland and for them to be faced with these types of problems and violent altercations will become representatives of our country for them. He spoke of the frustration, disgust, and embarrassment he feels for international visitors who have to witness such incidents.

When contacted for comment a spokesperson from Iarnród Éireann stated:

“There have been ten customer complaints relating to anti-social behaviour on the Sligo to Dublin line in the first six months of 2022. While one incident is one to many, when you consider the tens of thousands of journeys that have been made during this time, incidents are low.

“If a person pushes the emergency button, the driver will bring the train to stop when it is safe to do so and will go back to investigate the incident and provide assistance and call for backup if required.

“I would stress that this should be used for medical emergencies or extreme anti-social behaviour as it can result in long delays to services also if the train is stopped between stations it could delay the Gardaí or the emergency services getting to the train, stopping a train at a station is a faster way of getting the assistance that is needed, but it is a facility that may be used at a time of emergency

“On Intercity services, the introduction of on-board Customer Service Officers on all Intercity services is nearing completion, with the final phase of recruitment underway. This includes the Sligo line. While this role is focused on customer service, it will ensure customers can alert staff to issues, with staff having direct access to a network of Garda stations through a rapid response hub network established over the past 12 months, as well as our own security teams.”


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