Bus workers and drivers have been targeted in more than 1,000 anti-social behaviour incidents in the past 18 months with four assaults in the last two weeks alone, the Dáil has been told.
Independents4Change TD Joan Collins said that Bus Éireann does not record assaults unless the worker is absent for more than three days and she called for every assault to be recorded to ensure a proper account of each incident.
But Minister for Transport Shane Ross said that "according to Bus Éireann all assaults and incidents of anti-social behaviours are fully investigated and followed up with An Garda Síochána as required".
Earlier he said the introduction of a dedicated transport police unit “is being looked at very seriously”.
But he told Sinn Féin transport spokeswoman Imelda Munster that “it is ultimately a matter for the Garda Commissioner”.
He said the Railway Safety Advisory Council had recommended the establishment of a dedicated unit of An Garda Síochána to police the rail network on occasions when the possibility of anti-social behaviour is high.
He told Ms Collins Bus Éireann had reported that the level of anti-social behaviour was relatively low and it “noted a declining trend” but the company had insisted that the safety and welfare of its staff was a key priority.
Ms Munster said Iarnród Éireann spent €3 million every year to provide security services for its railway network.
Power of arrest
She told the Minister 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-society behaviour”.
The Louth TD said transport workers and passengers feel threatened because of a lack of security and it was reported that anti-social behaviour was increasing.
Mr Ross said he had provided an extra €115,000 in funding to assist with security. Irish Rail had 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.
The remaining €15,000 is for additional security personnel at fleet maintenance depots “in order to counter the threat of vandalism, including graffiti attacks on trains”.
Asked about a dedicated transport unit Mr Ross said that he had been in touch with the Minister for Justice who had been in touch with the Garda Commissioner and it was being considered but was ultimately a matter for the Commissioner.
Ms Collins had called for the installing of “assault screens” on all Bus Éireann services to protect drivers.
The Minister said screens were fitted to “the entire low-floor single-deck and double-deck bus fleet”.
But he said that manufacturers did not supply screens for coaches but this was under review.