Automated trams are a 'hare-brained, crazy plan', says Luas union
Driverless trams for Dublin would be "a hare-brained, crazy scheme," according to the union representing LUAS drivers.
Fully automated trams moving through the busy streets of the capital without a driver are not needed and pose a safety risk, said SIPTU divisional organiser Owen Reidy.
Dublin City Council's Transport Committee last week passed a motion calling on the Minister for Transport, the National Transport Authority, Transport Infrastructure Ireland and LUAS operators Transdev to "future proof" all new trams so they will be capable of being fitted with self-driving software.
Cllr Paddy Smyth said expensive trams should not be allowed to lie idle in future in the event of another pay dispute, but this has been rejected by Siptu.
"This is a bit of a red herring," Mr Reidy responded. "Cllr Smyth spoke about automated trams during the recent dispute and this is an over-reaction to the dispute."
"This is a nonsense idea. It's a hare-brained, crazy scheme that's proposed and there's no real need for it," he said.
The union spokesman said: "Mr Smyth need not worry about disputes affecting the tram service.
Trams have been operating for 13 years in Dublin. It has been four or five years since a 'no strike' clause was removed, and there has only been one dispute".
Mr Reidy added: "Another dispute is unlikely given that the pay deal reached gives drivers 18.3pc up to 2020, or around 4pc annually," he said.
"The debate about automated trams needs to be evidence-based. The key to this debate is safety," he added.
"Dublin's Luas trams are among the safest in Europe. A Railway Safety Commission report in 2014 said the very high safety record for Luas trams was well-placed within European norms," Mr Reidy said.
"In 2014, Luas trams passengers travelled a total of 3.6bn kilometres, with 32m passenger journeys, and there were only eight pedestrian-train contact incidents, involving no deaths.
"These pedestrian incidents concerned people walking out in front of Luas trams, some wearing headphones. Luas drivers have a very high awareness of safety.
"There were 36 road traffic accidents involving cars and trucks colliding with trams. The trams are incredibly safe and this is down to the professionalism of the drivers who must share tracks with bikes and taxis," he said.
Mr Reidy said the city council's transport committee should have done a behaviour and attitudes survey among tram passengers to see if they would have "faith and trust" in driverless trams.
The proper reaction to a pay dispute is negotiation, not making proposals for driverless trams, he added.
Cllr Smyth last week told the Transport Committee: "Given the cost to the city caused by this strike in recent months...we must look at all options of returning a functioning trams service. It is not a question of if, but rather when we automate.
"This (Luas trams) is a very expensive piece of kit to be lying idle during 12 days of industrial action," he said.
A spokeswoman for tram operator Transdev said: "We don't wish to comment at this time."