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Topless teens, sexual harassment and aerosol flamethrowers: Dart users' complaints to Irish Rail

A new text alert system for complaining about anti-social behaviour on the service was launched this month.

Image: Leah Farrell

DART PASSENGERS HAVE reported a number of incidents involving assaults, sexual harassment, racist abuse and intimidation on board services since the middle of last year.

Earlier this month the company launched a new text alert system to tackle anti-social behaviour amid high-profile reports of such incidents and concerns for passenger safety.

It also announced that it will increase security patrols, install new CCTV cameras and increase co-operation with gardaí in a bid to crack down on the problem.

However, complaints from before the launch of the new system to report anti-social behaviour, submitted via Irish Rail’s ‘Customer Care and Feedback’ option on the company’s website, detail the nature of anti-social incidents on board the service.

Correspondence from members of the public seen by TheJournal.ie also includes allegations of drunkenness, intimidation, physical threats, fighting, smoking, and drug-taking by passengers using the service.

Politicians, campaigners and unions have led calls for both the government and Irish Rail to tackle anti-social behaviour and increase security measures at trains and stations.

Last week, the National Bus and Rail Union passed a motion to withdraw bus and rail services from areas considered to be ‘blackspots’ for anti-social behaviour in the run up to Halloween, and called for the establishment of a Garda Public Transport Unit.

Asked about these claims by TheJournal.ie in an interview this week, Minister for Transport Shane Ross said that while public order incidents on public transport were “unacceptable”.

“It’s certainly something which concerns me enormously,” he said, but added that the Department was “not inclined” to hire gardaí to police rail or bus services.

Complaints about such behaviour on Dart services rose to 96 last year, almost double the 52 complaints Irish Rail received from users of the service in 2017.

Since the introduction of its new text alert system, the company has received between two and five complaints daily.

Racist and homophobic abuse

Several complaints dating from June 2018 describe passengers being intimidated and verbally abused, including allegations of racism and homophobic abuse towards themselves and others.

One passenger who travelled on a southbound Dart from Killiney to Shankill told Irish Rail that they were spat on and the subject of a racial slur after asking a group of youths to stop cycling in a train carriage.

A different passenger who boarded an afternoon train at Clongriffin said they feared for their safety after a group of men directed homophobic abuse at them, saying:

They began to cause physical damage to the train before shouting homophobic abuse to me and my partner before giving indications of beginning physical abuse.
We had to leave train in fear of our safety. I use the train service everyday and I am disappointed that people so drunk with alcohol can get on train, but also that there is no security for passengers.

Other complainants contacted Irish Rail to report drunk passengers, including one who claimed they were subjected to “absolutely intolerable” behaviour on board an evening Dart service from Malahide to Sydney Parade.

The individual contacted the company after a group of “about forty teenagers” boarded the train and played “loud expletive filled rap music” from a speaker.

They said:

They began chanting loudly and shouting at each other. All the boys were topless and began blowing balloons around the train carriage.
My journey is absolutely unbearable and I wanted to report this behaviour as it is not what I am used to on Iarnród Éireann services.

Sexual harassment

A number of female passengers also contacted Irish Rail after reporting being sexually harassed on board the Dart.

In one instance, a woman who travelled on an 11.30pm service from Dublin to Greystones complained after she claimed that “inappropriate and worrying” advances were made towards her by an older man, despite her telling him she was uncomfortable.

“He asked me whether I was a student which makes me worried that he’s targeting young women in this way,” she said.

“I took a picture of him to send to a friend as it got to a point where I was concerned he may get off the train at the same stop at me and I was genuinely in fear for my safety.”

Another woman also reported issues regarding a man on a southbound Dart from Pearse Street:

I was made incredibly uncomfortable by a man on the same carriage as me who stared at me throughout the journey and proceeded to touch himself through his trousers.
I understand that this is not the fault or the responsibility of Irish Rail but I would appreciate that the person in charge of driving the Dart check in on the CCTV occasionally as there are rarely security staff on the ground.

Assaults and fighting

Several instances of assaults or fighting among passengers on the Dart were also reported to the company.

On one occasion, a complainant asked why gardaí did not call to the scene of a fight on a train despite being contacted by passengers on board.

“We were stuck on this train for a considerable period of time with all sorts of people who obviously had too much to drink,” the individual wrote.

“We then got off, myself and my wife and our two children, plus a friend of theirs, and felt unsafe… I am amazed and upset that the garda did not turn up, an issue which I feel is crazy.”

Another passenger reported being spat on during a day out with their family, while another said that they were also spat on after stopping a woman from being attacked by youths on a Dart from Bray to Sandycove.

One complainant contacted Irish Rail after witnessing youths randomly attacking people on a train from Howth, including by using an aerosol as a weapon:

At one point a man was using a deodorant can and a lighter as a makeshift flamethrower either to defend himself or attack others and normal Dart customers were running over each other to get away to the next carriage.
I saw some injured people who were limping getting off the Dart at Howth Junction and Kilbarrack stations… It was insane and people were terrified.

Up to five daily complaints

All of the above complaints preceded the introduction of Irish Rail’s text alert system for monitoring anti-social behaviour earlier this month.

Many were more general in nature, and included questions about why there was a lack of security presence on trains and in stations, as well as asking how gardaí were helping to tackle the problem.

A spokesman for Irish Rail said that while it was too early for specific trends on the new system to be identified, it appeared that the service was being used responsibly by Dart users.

A spokesman for the company also said that the company has engaged extensively with gardaí to proactively plan and reactively respond to anti-social behaviour.

Measures to deal with the issue include creating proactive protocols for major events, such as concerts and sporting events, and enacting a specific liaison for the summer season to cover beach activity.

“The company has successively increased security personnel both in mobile on-board teams and static security at stations over the past 18-24 months,” the spokesman said, addressing a query about security at stations and on trains.

“Current security patrol levels have doubled in this time, and resources will continue to be reviewed and enhanced as necessary.”

The company will also hire a specialised person to strengthen its management of measures to tackle anti-social behaviour.

The spokesman added that, as part of efforts to address anti-social behaviour, 128 Dart carriages had been fitted with CCTV, and that the process to fit CCTV in the remaining 16 carriages in the Dart fleet was currently underway.

Garda Public Transport Unit

The spokesman also said the company regretted that the customers who highlighted these incidents were exposed to the societal issue of anti-social behaviour.

“While the overwhelming majority of the 48 million journeys made annually on the company’ services occur without incident, it is a priority for us to reduce the number of incidents,” he said.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Minister for Transport Shane Ross said arrangements were being made to put officials on Irish Rail services in order to prevent security breaches.

“The new staff will monitor and report on any security breaches reported. We’re also working very closely and talking with the trade unions on what they say about this.”

But Ross said that the Department was “not inclined” to agree with requests by the NBRU to create a Garda Public Transport Unit, although he revealed that discussions on this had taken place.

He added that anti-social behaviour on public transport was unacceptable, and acknowledged that public transport was more vulnerable than traveling in a private car.

“We are keeping that under review. And if we get evidence that putting special staff on [public transport should be done], I think we’d encourage the companies to do that.”

With reporting from Christina Finn.

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