DRIVERS and inspectors working on Luas trams have been violently threatened almost 200 times in the past 18 months, it has emerged.
Shocking new figures reveal the extent of anti-social behaviour on the two-line tram network in the capital, with 457 incidents reported already this year.
A total of 31 thefts were reported in the first 170 days of the year according to Veolia Transport, which is the operator of the light rail network in Dublin.
It has now been forced to introduce full-time security aboard trams on the Red Line, which has borne the brunt of the rise in anti-social behaviour.
Gardaí from the Traffic Corps have been asked to travel on trams to keep tabs on the volume of petty crime and threatening behaviour, the Sunday Tribune has learned.
Since the turn of the year, 74 threats to staff – including drivers and ticket inspectors – have been reported by the tram-operating company.
Members of the public have also fallen victim to Luas louts with 32 commuters complaining of "threats" while travelling on the light rail network since January.
In the past year and half, there have been more than 1,300 incidents of "public disorder" reported on the two Luas lines. The vast majority of the incidents – 784 – were broadly categorised as anti-social activity, including general bad behaviour but also drunkenness, smoking and drug taking. Some 150 people had to be thrown off a tram after falling asleep on board, the figures show.
Veolia Transport said anti-social behaviour was "on the increase in Dublin" and was not just confined to Luas.
It said that the 1,300 public-order incidents had to be taken in the context of more than 27.4 million trips a year and 80,000 passengers daily.
In February of this year, the company hired STT Security, a specialised transport security firm, which now oversees public safety on the light rail network.
A statement said: "Veolia Transport has increased security on the Red Line [Tallaght to Connolly Station] as of 15 June... Security is now seven nights a week from evening to last tram (0.30am).
"The Green Line [Sandyford to St Stephen's Green] has security on it three nights a week, from early evening to last tram."
Veolia Transport said the security firm was also being used during the day, both on trams and at stops.
Particular problems have been experienced around stops and ticket machines, where muggers and
beggars have harassed customers.
Another major problem exists at Connolly Station where gangs of drunken people routinely loiter at the Luas terminus.
The company meets twice a month with gardaí to address public disorder on the tram, according to a spokesperson.
The spokesperson said: "Plain-clothes and uniformed gardaí, from time to time, are present on the Luas, Red and Green Lines."
Veolia Transport said gardaí had full access to the Luas's control-room CCTV monitors and that footage from cameras on board each tram and at stops were passed on when a crime was reported.
The number of passengers using the Luas network has fallen by almost 2.5 million so far this year, with ticket evasion and anti-social behaviour thought to be major factors.
The decline has been more dramatic on the Red Line but the operation was still expected to break even this year, according to Railway Procurement Agency chief executive Frank Allen.