Irish Rail has spent more than €23m on private security firms contracted to protect passengers over the past five years. With €7.5m now being paid on private security at train and bus stations each year, the Government is being urged to introduce a new dedicated transport police unit.
It comes as gardaí rolled out a second one-day operation on Dart, Luas, and eight inter-city rail routes across the country over the weekend to tackle anti-social behaviour on trains.
However, TDs have called for a permanent Garda presence on public transport similar to transport police units that operate in other European countries.
Labour TD Seán Sherlock said considerable public money is already being spent on private companies to ensure passengers and staff are protected from attacks, theft, and anti-social behaviour.
Last year, Irish Rail spent €5.7m and has already paid out €2.7m this year to security provider One Complete Solution (OCS) which has been contracted by the company since 2020. The total private security bill paid by Irish Rail since 2018 amounts to €23.2m.
Meanwhile, Bus Éireann spent €1.8m on private security last year and expects this bill to go over €2m for 2022.
However, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan recently told Mr Sherlock that “the Garda authorities do not propose to establish a specialist or dedicated transport policing unit at this time”, as effective local community policing can meet the needs of the public transport network.
Sherlock said: “The fact is, public money is already being paid to companies to provide security. If a pilot can be introduced where there is some mechanism of gardaí either travelling at peak anti-social times or being linked in further with drivers and routes, that would bring great comfort to passengers and drivers.
“There would be transparency and oversight of such a pilot also, in the public interest, which could be managed by individual local authority policing committees. To continue to say ‘no pilot’ is really disappointing consistently from this coalition.” Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan also said a Garda transport unit is now required as not everyone feels safe using public transport. “Incidents of dangerous, unruly behaviour have become far too commonplace and have become more extreme in nature,” said Mr O’Callaghan.