Eight arrests, 29 drug searches and 400 fines – how gardaí are tackling anti-social behaviour on trains

Irish Rail expects to spend €5.2m on security this year

Gardaí are cracking down on anti-social behaviour on trains (stock image)

Ken Foy

Gardaí in three counties who are involved in an ongoing operation against crime and anti-social behaviour on commute-line trains say that their actions have been a success.

The operation has been in place since April and according to exclusive figures obtained by Independent.ie, it has led to eight arrests, two which were for outstanding bench warrants as well as 29 searches under drugs legislation.

Working with Irish Rail staff, figures compiled by gardaí show that over 400 people have been fined for travelling without tickets on the commuter lines into and out of the capital in the past seven months.

Officers from Kilmainham, Ronanstown, Leixlip, Naas, Kildare, Newbridge and Portlaoise garda stations have all been involved in the weekly operations which regularly involve the deployment of undercover gardaí as well as the dog unit on occasion on the trains and in stations in an attempt to detect illegal drugs.

The Indo Daily: Terror on the trains – why anti-social behaviour on public transport is off the rails

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Explaining how the operation is policed, a senior source said: “Each garda district in these areas provides two to three officers on one or two days a week on a rotational basis which involves these gardaí being on the trains with Irish Rail staff.

“In the course of a typical day, gardaí will have travelled on at least eight different commuter trains on the lines into and out of Heuston Station.”

In one instance, gardaí involved in the operation travelled on their first train at 2.50pm and switched to numerous other trains on the commuter lines before finishing their duty on the last operating train which was close to midnight.

“The aim is for gardaí to hit as many trains as they can on the day which is planned in advance after a schedule is provided to garda management in advance by Irish Rail, and specific lines that have experienced problems are targeted.

“The commuter-train line ends and starts in Heuston Station and that is why Dublin gardaí are involved, as well as the fact that there has been problems at stations such as Clondalkin/Fonthill in the recent past.

“The aim of this operation is to prevent anti-social behaviour, drug use and drugs transportation and it has been a success as reports of anti-social behaviour on commuter trains have decreased dramatically in recent months,” the senior source explained.

As well as spending hours on different trains on their weekly day of action, officers have also increased their presence in train stations and have also been carrying out quick “walk-throughs” when trains have stopped, particularly in locations such as Newbridge, Kildare and Portlaoise stations.

Despite the success of the operation, gardaí concede that “more work needs to be done” and there has been growing concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour on intercity trains, particularly on routes to and from Cork and Waterford.

In the past fortnight, gardaí have expanded their commuter train operation onto intercity trains.

“The problem seems to have definitely migrated to the intercity routes but since the operation was set up earlier this month, there has been no arrests or incidents on the intercity trains,” the senior source said.

Earlier this week it emerged that more than 200 Dart carriages have been vandalised this year, with repairs and cleaning costing the taxpayer in excess of €500,000.

It also emerged Irish Rail passengers have sent 71 texts to its alert system about anti-social behaviour on trains.

And last Friday, passengers were left terrified after a gang of youths carrying an array of weapons created widespread panic on a train in north Dublin.

Passengers said up to 30 thugs carrying hurleys, bats and hammers boarded the train at Broombridge before exiting at Castleknock station.

One of the country's biggest Irish Rail unions is to ballot for industrial action and work stoppages, claiming staff are being terrorised by thuggish behaviour, drug dealing and fighting.

The National Bus and Rail Union General Secretary Dermot O'Leary said that staff have had enough.

Figures from the union show that there were 2,300 reports of anti-social behaviour last year, which includes 369 deemed aggressive, while there were 70 assaults on staff.

Irish Rail expects to spend €5.2m on security this year, an increase of €1.5m since 2016.

An Irish Rail spokesman told Independent.ie: “Iarnród Éireann has been working extensively with our employees and trade unions, with An Garda Síochána, and our private security personnel to ensure we both proactively put in place measures to address anti-social behaviour, and respond to specific incidents, to ensure we have as safe a travelling and working environment as possible.

“The operations with gardaí on Commuter routes from Heuston are amongst a series established, which also include Dart and the Cork area, and both our employees and the company commend the gardaí for their continuing contribution to addressing anti-social behaviour incidents.

“They have been hugely beneficial in preventing incidents, and it is encouraging to see that since July of this year, each month has seen a fall in reportable criminal and anti-social behaviour incidents on the network when compared with 2020 – in a context where more people are now travelling.”

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