Transport and travel trade union TSSA has called for a dedicated transport police service across Ireland, citing a 'sharp increase’ in anti-social behaviour on the railways.
On the second day of its annual delegate conference in Cork, TSSA delegates also backed a call for a trade union-wide report into the future of Ireland’s railways both North and South.
The motion on transport policing, proposed by the union’s Irish Committee, highlighted how in the North a small team of Police Service for Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers are policing stations and trains.
It also noted the rise in drug-related offences on Translink services, plus assaults on staff and ‘a dramatic increase in antisocial behaviour’. Conference heard that in the Republic still higher incidents of abuse are being recorded.
However, in the Republic there is no relationship between An Garda Siochana and Iarnród Éireann. The move by the union comes after anti-social issues halted some services on Dublin Bus in recent months.
On wider transport policy Conference called for a ‘trade union report on Ireland's railways North and South’. This echoes similar work done in Scotland which produced the 2021 report ‘A Vision for Scotland’s Railways’ and comes as the All-Ireland Strategic Rail Review - examining how to improve links between regions and cities across Ireland - is expected to be published in the coming months.
Commenting, TSSA Executive Committee member for Ireland, Paul Corcoran, said: “It’s great to see our conference passing these vital motions because it’s long past time we had a joined-up system of policing across our rail and wider transport network.
“That this currently does not exist in any meaningful way is an injustice both to passengers and our communities.
The full motions can be read below.
Transport Policy (Transport Policing in Ireland)
‘That this Conference is concerned there is no dedicated transport police in Ireland. Conference believes it is time to have some form of transport police in Ireland North and South.
Translink have engaged with the Policing Service for Northern Ireland to set up a small task force of six officers to police its stations and trains on a part time basis.
This is to be commended by both the company and the police authority. Conference notes that, over the past few years, the number of drug-related offences occurring on Translink property has increased threefold.
This has led to a higher number of assaults on staff and a dramatic increase in antisocial behavior. We are informed that our brothers and sisters in the Republic are experiencing even higher incidents of abuse by outside antisocial elements in the workplace.
Within Translink the responsibility of monitoring and policing these problems is the responsibility of the Railway Inspector Grades, from the initial engagement with an offender to evidence gathering and preparing the case for court.
The sharp increase in anti-social behavior has placed a heavier burden on Station Inspectors and staff who are also responsible for the day-to-day
operations of a railway, plus the administration work required to run the business. In the Republic of Ireland there is no such relationship between An Garda Siochana and the company.
When our colleagues in the Republic call for assistance from An Garda it could be quite some time before they respond.
With all this in mind Conference requests the Irish Committee to make representations to the company, An Garda Siochana and the local Government representatives with the aim of achieving a better policing strategy on public transport’.
Transport Policy (Future of Rail Industry)
‘That this Conference notes that, notwithstanding post-Covid disruption to passenger services caused by Government-inspired cuts and Government-provoked industrial action, rail passenger numbers have continued to recover strongly following the pandemic.
Current passenger numbers have recovered to usage that is nearly double that of 1996. It must also be noted that road traffic levels are now well in excess of prepandemic levels.
Conference believes that the Government’s current agenda of cuts to the number and quality of rail passenger services coupled with attacks on rail staff jobs along with staffs’ pay and conditions threaten to undermine that recovery and ensure that road traffic will continue to rise with all the attendant problems of pollution and congestion.
Conference firmly believes that this Government and future Governments must take a long-term view of future transport needs by encouraging more passengers to travel by public transport rather than in cars, and more freight to be moved by rail rather than by road.
Conference notes the outstanding success of London’s Elizabeth line, which is seeing passenger usage well in excess of that projected, demonstrating that modern rail lines are welcomed and used by the public.
Conference therefore condemns the Government’s continuing cuts to HS2 including the reduction in station capacity at London Euston which will limit line
capacity and preclude expansion of HS2 services in the future, and the removal of the Golborne Link.
Conference also condemns the apparent abandonment of commitments to link cities across northern England with high-speed lines (Northern Powerhouse Rail).
Conference instructs the EC to continue to press the Labour Party to commit to funding a full HS2 'eastern leg' high speed line connecting Leeds, Sheffield and the East Midlands to Birmingham and London, along with a network of modern high-speed lines connecting northern cities, in order to create a rail network fit for the 21st Century.
Conference also instructs the EC to work with other rail unions, the TUC and rail users’ groups to campaign for a positive future for Britain’s railways, perhaps reviving the ‘Better Rail Campaign’.