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 Header Item Bus Services (Continued)
 Header Item Public Transport

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John Lahart: Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart] This speaks to the matter that arises time and again. I raised it yesterday with respect to the policing of bus corridors and the Minister did not particularly respond on any initiatives. This is the kind of matter that should keep the Minister and me up at night thinking of solutions for the intermediate term. It will be ten years before that bus corridor network is filled. How can we hope to encourage drivers to switch from cars to bus services if there are no corridors in place and if the project is not to be completed until 2027? That will lead to completely obstacle-free routes, leaving buses as essentially a Luas tram on rubber wheels, but drivers will have to wait for ten years until the entire infrastructure is built.

I would like the Minister to take a real leadership role in pushing this on and meeting representatives of the National Transport Authority, NTA, to make it happen as quickly as possible. We must get the compulsory purchase orders and a couple of eggs will have to be broken to make this omelette but we must get the NTA to push this through. The Minister should devise some intermediate solutions to encourage drivers to switch from cars to public transport.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I appreciate the sense of urgency displayed by the Deputy and I also have that sense of urgency. He should not be under the impression that nothing will happen with bus corridors in the next decade. A National Transport Authority-led public consultation on four of its new bus lanes in Dublin started on Wednesday, 14 November, as the Deputy is aware. It runs until early next year. The corridors are Clongriffin to the city centre, Swords to the city centre, Blanchardstown to the city centre and Lucan to the city centre. As I stated, there are to be 16 corridors in total and consultations on the next six will start in January and run until April. Consultations on the final six will start in February and run until May. Phasing the consultations will allow for the appropriate level of engagement with property owners and communities along each route. It is really important that these consultations are given time and space. Nobody wants to see these bus corridors become invasive or an impediment to people's daily lives. We want to see as much accord, agreement and consent as possible given to the process, and it will take time. The idea that they will not happen until 2027 is wrong and the consultation processes are beginning already. The processes will go on and they will be phased in. They will not all happen in parallel as that is not necessary.

Public Transport

 2. Deputy Imelda Munster Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross the measures he plans to put in place in order to tackle the increasing number of attacks on the public transport network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52270/18]

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster What measures does the Minister intend to put in place in order to tackle the ever-increasing number of attacks occurring on the public transport network? There were reports in the media that the Government was considering the establishment of a dedicated transport police to deal with crime on public transport and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport was to meet the Minister for Justice and Equality on the matter. What was the outcome of that and what plans have been outlined?

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I thank the Deputy for putting the question, as the matter is of concern to a large number of Deputies, particularly in the Dublin area. It is a matter of some angst for people on some modes of transport and less in others. It is a relevant and well-intentioned question.

The safety and security of 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. Whereas the vast majority of public transport passenger journeys occur without incident, I am concerned to ensure that the necessary arrangements are in place to guarantee the safety of all passengers and staff travelling and working on our bus and rail networks. Therefore, following representations from the National Bus and Rail Union seeking the establishment of a dedicated police force for public transport, my Department wrote to Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus to seek their views on the issue of anti-social behaviour and ensuring the safety of both passengers and staff.

In its response, Iarnród Éireann outlined a number of measures that the company has taken in an effort to safeguard the security of passengers and staff. These measures have included the allocation of additional security and supervisory operatives, particularly at night and in certain areas, as well as more resources for centralised closed circuit television, CCTV, monitoring stations. The company also emphasised that it works closely with An Garda Síochána on anti-social behaviour in general and receives the full support of the Garda. More recently, Iarnród Éireann has advised that security and supervisory operatives have been allocated, particularly at night, in certain areas and at sensitive times, such as the Christmas period. In addition, I understand Iarnród Éireann has now commenced the deployment of on-board customer service officers on intercity trains; their primary focus will be on customer service but their presence is intended to deter anti-social behaviour and will enable rapid contact with security or An Garda Síochána should this be required.

Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus responded that the level of anti-social behaviour is relatively low and noted a declining trend, which is very positive. Both companies also stressed the strong and close working relationships with An Garda Síochána. Dublin Bus has advised my Department that it will have enhanced levels of co-operation and engagement with An Garda Síochána over the Christmas period. The company has highlighted the areas of greatest risk and requested additional support.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster As the Minister is aware, public transport companies are already under-resourced and need additional support from the Government to deal with this. It is my understanding it costs Iarnród Éireann upwards of €3 million per year to provide security services. The Minister also knows that security personnel do not have the power of arrest and it is arguable that the presence of gardaí would be a stronger deterrent to would-be criminals or those causing anti-social behaviour. Currently, transport workers and passengers feel threatened because of a lack of security and the Minister should be aware of recent media reports of an apparent increase in anti-social behaviour. It is a worry not just for workers but for passengers. The Minister indicated the Government would look at a new and specific policing unit but has that idea been shelved? Does the Minister have an update on that? I have taken on board his response.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross The Deputy mentioned the need for additional resources and I have given Iarnród Éireann an extra €115,000, of which I know the Deputy is aware. That has come from my Department's Vote very late in the year in order to assist with this specific problem. The additional funding from the Vote will enable Irish Rail to take further measures that can reassure passengers and staff that they will be able to travel and work in safety and peace over the festive season. Irish Rail has spent €100,000 of this on extra security patrols on evening DART and commuter services between Dublin city centre and Howth, Drogheda, Maynooth, Kildare and Greystones. These patrols will be in addition to Iarnród Éireann's existing measures to safeguard the travelling public against anti-social behaviour and the company's long-standing strong working relationship with the Garda Síochána. The remaining €15,000 of the extra funds will be used by Irish Rail to provide additional security personnel at fleet maintenance depots in order to counter the threat of vandalism, including graffiti attacks on trains.

The issue of anti-social behaviour on the public transport network has come increasingly to the fore over recent months thanks to the Deputy and others and we have responded to it. I must also thank Mr. Dermot O'Leary of the NBRU, who also brought this to our attention. We have responded very positively to it because we recognise there is a common interest in looking after both the staff and the passengers.

Deputy Imelda Munster: Information on Imelda Munster Zoom on Imelda Munster The additional funding is welcome. Is Iarnród Éireann satisfied it is sufficient to bring about an effective deterrent and curb the rise in anti-social behaviour? Are the unions satisfied that the funding is sufficient? The Minister should be aware there have been more than 1,000 anti-social behaviour incidents in the past 18 months and the rise in incidence across all statistical areas. It is something that must be dealt with promptly and effectively. Are the parties satisfied that the additional funding will help sort out the problem?

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Ross Zoom on Shane Ross I am certainly not aware of them being dissatisfied with being handed €115,000 to alleviate the problem. We will see what happens and what will be the result. We are not even over the Christmas period yet so we cannot see the effect it has had.

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