herald

Saturday 7 December 2019

Drivers vote to pull bus and rail services over 'knife threats, drugs and violence'

NBRU chief Dermot O'Leary
NBRU chief Dermot O'Leary

Bus and rail passengers face the threat of services being pulled with immediate effect as a transport union leader warned some routes are now "drug corridors".

Delegates at the National Bus and Railworkers' Union (NBRU) biennial conference in Cork backed a motion yesterday in support of withdrawing services in blackspots for antisocial behaviour from October 14.

However, general secretary Dermot O'Leary warned services cannot be guaranteed until then as "downright thuggery" has reached "epidemic proportions".

Drivers described attacks including a "kidnapping" at knifepoint in which a driver was threatened and told to drive to Drogheda by a passenger.

Grab

Another CIE worker said a female driver was assaulted by a woman who "shot up" on a bus and then tried to grab her steering wheel after missing her stop.

It is understood that blackspots include routes to Dublin City University and Belfield, west Tallaght, Coolock, Finglas, Clondalkin, Darndale, Eden Quay, Ballymun, the North Circular Road, Finglas south, Bawnogue and Neilstown in Dublin.

Along the Dart, Kilbarrack, Howth Junction, Bayside and Sutton are also considered problem zones.

In Limerick, Caherdavin, Moyross, Southill, Garryowen, Ballinanty, and University of Limerick routes are also feared because of previous incidents.

Mr O'Leary said that assaults at Irish Rail had jumped from 280 in 2013 to almost 900 last year.

"The stories are frightening - including open drug use," he added.

"Some of the services have become drug corridors, with physical assaults on revenue protection personnel, train hosts, train drivers, and customer service right across the system. No area is immune," Mr O'Leary said.

He said there have been serious assaults on drivers in Kildare, Navan, Drogheda, and Busaras and antisocial issues in Loughrea, Cavan, and Monaghan.

"The shocking pellet-gun attack on a Bus Eireann driver here in Cork last week illustrates quite clearly the issues faced by front-line transport workers, on an almost daily basis," he said.

"We simply cannot, we simply will not, stand idly by and allow it to continue unchecked.

"Whilst the motion today gives timelines, there are absolutely no, and we mean no guarantees that the timetabled services of our transport companies will be met in full over the intervening period.

Bizarre

"Each incident from this day on might very well trigger a reaction from transport workers."

He dismissed a "bizarre" notion put forward by Irish Rail recently to get its staff to wear bodycams as "a harebrained idea".

Mr O'Leary said it was one which "would see front-line staff becoming even more of a target than they currently are".

He said that the current community garda unit should incorporate a public transport division.

However, he added that he believes there is resistance among some gardai to the establishment of such a unit due to concerns about how it would be funded.

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