Government must address increasing antisocial behaviour on public transport, says Siptu

Union says passengers and staff are suffering as the number of incidents on buses, trams and trains continues to grow

The Government needs to act in order to address the growing wave of antisocial behaviour affecting public transport according to the biggest trade union in the sector.

Siptu says both passengers and staff are suffering as the number of incidents on buses, trams and trains increases and the union has said it wants to see the consultative forum provided for in legislation more than a decade ago, finally established so the issue can be properly discussed.

Speaking at an event on Tuesday to publicise the findings of a recent survey of the union’s members in the sector with regard to their experience of abuse, violence and vandalism, Siptu’s Adrian Kane said “we are experiencing an epidemic of antisocial behaviour and it’s getting worse. We need to talk about that, what we do about it and there needs framework within which we can do that”.

The union points to the National Transport Advisory Council which was established as part of wider legislation in 2008 and intended to serve as a forum for companies, staff, passengers and other impacted parties to discuss the challenges facing the sector. The survey points to a widely held desire to see some sort of dedicated transport police established but the union Mr Kane says the forum would at least provide a setting in which to discuss potential measures.


Duncan Smith TD, a member of the Oireachtas committee on Transport and Communication, who attended the event said afterwards he had written to the committee’s other members calling for a meeting to discuss the findings of the survey which suggested more than half of staff in the sector experience antisocial behaviour on at least a weekly basis.

He said he had been shocked by some of the experiences outlined by staff at Dublin Bus, Luas and Go-Ahead who attended the event.

They spoke of being threatened, assaulted, spat at and verbally abused and suggested a routine lack of basic respect was becoming an increasingly routine part of the job. Race and gender were a factor in many incidents, it was said.

The meeting heard that those behind episodes of vandalism or abuse are often known to security staff or gardaí but prosecutions are extremely rare and so, one driver said, “it’s the same people over and over again, there has to be some sort of deterrent”.

Another said that while “90 per cent of people are decent, since Covid there is more aggression”.

Housing estates with existing problems relating to antisocial behaviour tend to produce particular problems, the meeting heard but one driver said the behaviour of some university students could also be appalling. Drivers have, on at least one previous occasion refused to enter UCD campus at certain times.

Siptu sector organiser John Murphy said companies were doing their best to combat the problem and support staff and in a statement Dublin Bus said it takes “incidents of antisocial behaviour extremely seriously” and has “a firm strategy” to deal with it through the use of security cameras, staff training and close liaison with the emergency services.

“Dublin Bus has a strong and close working relationship with An Garda Síochána and has set up a number of community forums in different areas across the city. The company is also a member of the National Transport Authority’s antisocial behaviour working group,” it said.

“In addition to this, we also operate a schools education programme which involves educating young people about the importance of the bus in their lives and in their local community. The work of our school and community co-ordinators has also proven highly successful in encouraging young people to respect their bus and has assisted greatly in the reduction of incidents of antisocial behaviour.”

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Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times