Ireland’s chief transport strategist insisted there was no need for dedicated service policing as the Oireachtas transport committee pledged to look into the matter further, citing ‘concerns of the public” regarding safety.
At a committee hearing on Wednesday, Anne Graham, chief executive of the National Transport Authority (NTA), said the spread of services would make it difficult to concentrate police services and that gardaí were on hand to respond to incidents .
His comments came a week after fresh demands for policing were voiced by Fianna Fáil politicians at a parliamentary party meeting amid growing unease over the attacks.
“I disagree with the provision of dedicated transport policing,” Ms Graham said in response to questions.
“How would you choose to place your dedicated transport police? What services would you choose? Because you will never be able to cover every service operated statewide.
Ms Graham said a working relationship allowing transport providers to call on Garda support was preferable. Private security is also provided.
While public concerns about safety existed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic due to the relative lack of service users, the NTA’s annual surveys show this has since eased.
Committee chairman Kieran O’Donnell said the issue of transport security merited further consideration.
“We will come back to transport policing,” Fine Gael TD said. “It’s a problem that comes up with the general public. People need to feel safe on public transport.
Wednesday’s committee was convened to discuss issues facing the taxi industry, which has suffered capacity setbacks since the pandemic.
The NTA has submitted plans for public consultation to further extend the life of the vehicles to 15 years – a decision that would run until 2025 before being reversed. The authority wants taxis to be less than 10 years old but has been forced to extend that cut-off point due to Covid-19 and other supply chain issues with new cars.
However, it has been criticized because a decision on whether the latest extension will go ahead cannot be made until later this year, after the council has had time to review the public consultation process.
“For the taxi driver who is [obligated to] change car in January… what do they do? asked Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer. “Do you see the frustration and anxiety of the taxi driver who has to change cars soon?”
A depletion in the number of drivers during the pandemic means the industry is struggling to recover with peak hour demand and the lack of supply was of particular concern last year.
“As things stand, taxi services are struggling to keep up with demand at times in cities across Ireland,” said Fiona Brady, operations manager at Free Now Ireland, the taxi app , adding that an expansion of 24-hour public transport and the staggering of nightlife closing times were also needed to ease the pressure.
Intensive demand is felt most during major events. The Free Now app received approximately 10,000 hourly requests during recent Garth Brooks concerts; 50,000 in three hours at concerts in Marley Park in Dublin; and 35,000 in two hours following a recent Westlife appearance.
The NTA data, however, seems to indicate a level of recovery although it will take some time to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Driver’s license renewals are now increasing each month at a rate 72% faster than in 2019. New license applications are up 132% from last year, while drivers returning to active status after pausing during the pandemic are up nearly a third. .