There is no point in encouraging more people to use public transport if half the women using it do not feel it is safe for them, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said.
Mr Ryan, leader of the Green Party, said that a report commissioned by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) disclosed that women, especially in Dublin, were particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault.
Its findings showed that half of all women would not use public transport after dark due to safety concerns, with one-third saying they did not feel secure using public transport at all.
“That is a huge number of people not feeling comfortable on public service after dark,” said Mr Ryan.
Transport police corps
“We can’t on the one hand be encouraging the switch to public transport – which we all know has to be the next step in our transport system – and have half of all female users feeling it’s not safe for them.”
Mr Ryan said he would examine the report.
“We will have to increase the sense of security and have an increased security presence on public transport, so confidence can return,” he said.
One suggestion which has been floated as a solution is the establishment of a specific transport police corps as they have in the UK.
At present, public transport companies use private security companies but also work closely with An Garda Síochána.
Irish Rail communications director Barry Kenny said that the system used by the company had been working well. He said the transport police concept in the UK had grown up because all the police services there are regionalised.
Transport police officers are independent of those regional services and can operate from one region to another.
He said the system Irish Rail had in place included joint patrols between gardaí and security guards, at stations and also on trains, detailed protocols for rapid response by gardaí to incidents on trains, a centralised security centre, as well as very close liaison with Garda community policing.
He said the private security officers tended to work in urban areas and had powers to remove people from trains and worked very closely with the Garda in terms of responding quickly to incidents.
“Safety and security is a crucial factor for women customers. Irish Rail has robust security protocols in place. There has been an increase in resources and new security measures,” he said.