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COMMENT: Thuggery on Luas needs to be tackled

THE incoming Government will have a long list of election promises to make good on, from reducing hospital waiting lists to solving the housing crisis.

Crime was also a major issue on the doorsteps, with ongoing feuding and the gruesome murder of a teenager providing an unsettling backdrop to the election campaign.

While our politicians will be under pressure to prioritise many different issues, there is one area that I believe needs their immediate focus – the safety of passengers and staff across our public transport network.

The Luas Red Line was once again back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons last month when a woman’s hair was set alight by a gang of thugs – an incident that caused chaos and distress for everyone on board, not least the victim.

The Luas has served us well since first coming into operation in 2004. It has transformed the look and sound of the city and boosted property prices along its routes. 

Despite the extension of the Luas out as far as Broombridge, the Northside barely got a look in. Between them, the Red and Green Lines benefit large sections of the Southside, linking the city centre with Tallaght and Cherrywood/Brides Glen respectively.

Given the amount of hassle regularly reported on Red Line services, I wonder, in hindsight, if the Government would have been better off providing a rail link to Dublin Airport instead of spending money on a public transport route so prone to anti-social behaviour.

This newspaper recently reported that senior citizens are afraid to use Luas services on the Red Line for fear of being intimidated or terrorised by out of control teenagers. The appalling behaviour on board the trams can range from smoking and drinking to racial abuse and physical assaults. The low-life engaged in this type of activity are most likely serial fare evaders, depriving the Luas operators of income – money that could be spent on beefing up security measures.

But hiring additional private security staff to patrol the Luas is only a sticking plaster solution. Ultimately what is needed is a dedicated Garda transport unit with powers of arrest and the requisite training to deal with public order incidents. This is something that needs to be rolled out across the DART, commuter rail and bus networks.

The next Ministers for Justice and Transport would do well to start with the Luas Red Line which has become a byword for trouble.

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