I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 99 together.
I would like to thank the Deputies for their questions and the opportunity to further discuss the very serious issue of anti-social behaviour on our public transport systems.
As I outlined earlier to Deputy O’Rourke in response to a priority question, anti-social behaviour is a broad societal issue that we are currently facing to which public transport is not immune, and I recognise that those who work daily on board our trains, buses, trams, and in stations are most directly impacted by incidents which occur.
While it should be noted that the vast majority of public transport passenger journeys occur without incident, I am of course concerned to ensure that the necessary arrangements are in place to protect the safety of all passengers and staff.
The safety and security of both 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. The National Transport Authority (NTA) is also engaged with public transport operators regarding the issue of anti-social behaviour.
My Department has been engaging regularly with the NTA and the three CIÉ companies, on the issue of anti-social behaviour and in relation to the putting of measures in place to ensure the safety of passengers and staff.
As I previously mentioned, both Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann have reported that the level of anti-social behaviour is relatively low on their services, which is positive.
Iarnród Éireann have advised that they have been working extensively with employees and trade unions, with An Garda Síochána, and their private security personnel to ensure they both proactively put in place measures to address anti-social behaviour, and respond to specific incidents, to ensure as safe a travelling and working environment as possible.
An Garda Síochána has also provided specialist teams to support these operations including the use of the Garda Dog Unit for both high visibility public order patrols and the use of drug detector dogs when the rail network was being used to avoid the increase in Garda road policing checkpoints, particularly in the south and south-west of the country. A number of significant detections have been made where suspects attempted to use the rail network for the transportation of illicit substances.
,An Garda Síochána have also established regional quick response hubs at Portlaoise and Thurles to support our intercity services in order to address incidents of antisocial behaviour on-board our services and this has had a significant impact in reducing ASB and increasing compliance.
Iarnród Éireann also issue non-statutory prohibition orders to persistent offenders that pose a threat to both customers and staff members alike for criminal behaviour and ASB. These such orders have been served on persistent offenders to refuse them the use of Iarnród Éireann services until their behaviour improves. This has been a very effective approach in overall reduction of risk.
There have been several examples of joint operations with An Garda Síochána (AGS) & Iarnród Éireann (IÉ) targeting anti-social behaviour in stations and onboard with various checks with AGS at a range of stations. Irish Rail have also begun a programme to highlight risks of trespass including social media material targeted at younger people, and continue to monitor such issues and actions to prevent further incidents.
Further, as part of Iarnród Éireann’s 2021-2023 Security Strategy, the company has a range of measures in place to counteract and proactively prevent anti-social behaviour, such as;
- An Increase in security resources with up to 20 security teams operating daily on-board and in stations (spend on security has increased from €3.7 million to €5.2 million pa since 2016)
- Fleet-wide CCTV resources, including cab monitoring functionality on DART, InterCity Railcars
- DART text alert line established for discrete reporting of ASB incidents
- Several proactive Garda / IÉ operations for specific events, such as the mid-term and Halloween season, northside beaches in summer, concerts / sporting events
- Customer Service Officer role expansion on Intercity ensures point of contact for customers to raise issues, and to escalate to Central Control / Gardaí
- School visits and videos on safety and trespass in urban areas
- Respect, anti-racism and CCTV awareness campaigns undertaken
The measures in place and those planned are yielding and will continue to yield results, however this is an issue which will require continuing joint action. Iarnród Éireann have stated that they want to continue working with their employees and trade unions to address the scourge of anti-social behaviour and that disrupting, through industrial action, the overwhelming majority of customers who are law-abiding and rely on our services daily, will not achieve this.
As Minister of State for Transport, I will continue to work collectively with all stakeholders to ensure the safest possible travel environment for members of the public, and safest possible working environment for the employees providing our valuable public transport services.