Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (1613)

Ruth Coppinger

Question:

1613. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if funding will be increased for initiatives such as security screens on Bus Éireann vehicles and other security measures for public bus and rail services in view of increased attacks and antisocial incidents across transport networks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36219/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The safety and security of public transport passengers and staff, including arrangements to deal with anti-social behaviour, are important matters that, first and foremost, must be managed by every public transport company, in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, where appropriate.

While the vast majority of public transport passenger journeys occur without incident, I am concerned to ensure that the necessary arrangements are in place to ensure the safety of all passengers and staff.

My Department has been advised by Iarnród Éireann that it has undertaken a range of measures, including the doubling of security patrols, and proposes further measures to address anti-social behaviour on the rail network.

These include the introduction of Customer Service Officers on all Intercity routes, enhanced CCTV coverage, and the recently launched text alert service which enables customers to discreetly report anti-social behaviour incidents to a monitored security centre, and allowing security personnel and/or An Garda Síochána to be alerted and dispatched to incidents as required.

Iarnród Éireann's allocates significant funding each year on security measures. The annual spend on security has risen from €4.1 million in 2017 to €4.5 million in 2018 and it is projected by the company that this allocation will rise further in 2019 to approximately €4.7 million. The allocation of all Garda resources, including the manner in which Garda personnel are deployed, is solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team.

Both Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann have reported that the level of anti-social behaviour is relatively low on their services and noted a declining trend, which is positive.

The entire Dublin Bus fleet is fully fitted with CCTV cameras, with up to 10 internal cameras and two external cameras fitted on the more modern vehicles in the fleet. Each vehicle is equipped with a radio, which facilitates immediate contact to the Central Control Centre.

All of the company's buses are in radio contact with Central Control. Any instances of disruption or concerns around security are immediately reported and services are suspended as necessary. The company also has mobile inspectors in the city centre, who are available to attend incidents as required.

Dublin Bus operates a schools education programme, which involves educating young people about the importance of the bus in their lives and in their local communities. This has proven highly successful in encouraging young people to respect their bus and has assisted in the reduction of incidents of anti-social behaviour.

Bus Éireann has invested in extensive CCTV coverage throughout its fleet for the protection of passengers and staff and driver security screens are fitted to the entire low-floor, single-deck and double-deck bus fleet.

In relation to security screens on Bus Éireann vehicles, I am advised that manufacturers do not currently provide a solution whereby screens can be fitted on coaches and consequently it is not possible for screens to be fitted to the fleet.

I have been assured that Bus Éireann will continue to review this matter with coach manufacturers. However, they continue to face a number of safety challenges due to the constraints arising from the design and layout of the coach cab area, the high operating speeds of coaches, and the need for a clear and unimpeded view for drivers.

Emergency support for drivers is provided through 24-hour control centres and any incidents of anti-social behaviour are fully investigated and followed up with An Garda Síochána as required.

Following representations from the National Bus and Rail Union, my Department wrote to the three CIE companies seeking their views both on the issue of anti-social behaviour and in relation to ensuring the safety of passengers and staff. All companies stressed their strong and close working relationships with An Garda Síochána.

I also wrote to the Minister for Justice and Equality to seek his views on how we could address the issue of anti-social behaviour on our public transport system. The allocation of all Garda resources, including the manner in which Garda personnel are deployed is solely a decision for the Garda Commissioner and his management team.

I understand that An Garda Síochána has met with the Railway Safety Advisory Council in relation to the issue of anti-social behaviour on our public transport network and that further engagement and initiatives are planned.