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  • News

COMMENT: It’s time to reclaim the DART from the thugs

Monday, 14th May, 2018 7:59am

Story by Tony McCullagh
COMMENT: It’s time to reclaim the DART from the thugs

Better protection is needed for DART passengers. File photo/ Darren Kinsella

COMMENT: It’s time to reclaim the DART from the thugs

Better protection is needed for DART passengers. File photo/ Darren Kinsella

BACK in the early 1990s, I was asked by a tabloid newspaper editor to undertake a somewhat risky assignment.

Eager to make an impression, I accepted the daunting challenge of travelling on the last DART from Howth to Bray on a Saturday night. I fully expected to run the gauntlet of marauding, drunken yobs who were reportedly running amok on the late-night train every weekend.

I boarded the DART in Howth and interviewed a number of Irish Rail staff and passengers about their negative experiences. Like most things in Ireland, incidences of anti-social behaviour and violence were mostly linked to heavy drinking as customers spilled out of pubs and poured themselves into crowded rail carriages.

My journey to Bray that particular night was largely uneventful, save for some abusive language and one minor brawl as we approached the city centre. ‘WE RIDE THE NIGHT TRAIN OF TERROR!’ screamed the somewhat exaggerated headline when my article was published the following Sunday.

I was reminded of that night after shocking reports emerged about a frightening incident at Clongriffin station last week. Passengers were left terrified as gangs of youths attacked a DART, sprayed it with graffiti and prevented it from departing the station.

It made me nostalgic for the days when security staff with large guard dogs were a regular sight on the DART. I wonder if the feral thugs would have been so brave if they had been confronted by an agitated German Shepherd straining on his leash!

It’s not just the lack of security staff on trains that is at issue here. Many DART stations are now unmanned, which has left passengers more exposed to criminal acts. It is also a major inconvenience for those with disabilities or mobility issues who have to phone ahead to ensure that a member of Irish Rail staff will be available to assist them.

Moreover, the lack of staff at stations and on trains further encourages fare evasion. This lost revenue to Irish Rail could be used to fund better security measures for its passengers and drivers.

Re-staffing our train stations is a very necessary first step in encouraging greater public transport use. Ultimately, however, a dedicated transport police division needs to be established to rid our Luas, bus and rail services of the scourge of criminal thuggery like that witnessed on the DART in Clongriffin last week. I won’t be holding my breath.

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