Translink has responded to claims that assaults against its staff are “rampant” by giving an assurance that it has “a range of measures in place to enhance safety and deter anti-social behaviour”.
Northern Ireland’s public transport provider was responding to a BBC report revealing that Translink staff and passengers were assaulted 115 times in the first eight months of 2018.
According to figures made available to BBC News NI, there were 69 physical attacks recorded between January and August, including sexual assault. There were also 46 incidents of people being verbally threatened or abused.
The report said the majority of incidents targeted Translink’s bus and rail employees, with more than 72 incidents reported.
The Unite trade union, which represents many Translink staff, claimed assaults against workers were “rampant” and said “Translink management must ensure the safety of their staff.”
According to the figures obtained by the BBC, almost 700 incidents have been recorded in the past five years. But Translink has insisted that the number of reported incidents has been in decline over the last three years.
“Safety is our top priority. We condemn all instances of anti-social behaviour and have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to anyone that physically or verbally abuses our staff or customers,” a Translink spokesperson said.
“With around 3,800 employees and 14,000 services operating daily, we delivered over 81 million passenger journeys last year and have a very strong safety track record.
“Within this context, the number of incidents is exceptionally low and, in fact, has been reducing over the past three years.
“We have a range of measures in place to enhance safety and deter anti-social behaviour such as: staff training, working closely with the PSNI, community engagement initiatives, security personnel in main stations and at our facilities during special events, body cameras on staff uniforms and CCTV on buses, trains and in-station.”
The spokesperson added: “Anyone involved in anti-social behaviour will be prosecuted. We also offer a cash reward of up to £1,000 to anyone willing to go to court to give evidence that helps to secure a conviction.”
Branding the level of attacks against Translink workers “appalling”, SDLP infrastructure spokesperson Sinead Bradley commented: “It is totally unacceptable that workers providing us a vital public service, that many of us couldn’t do without, are facing abuse by customers whilst trying to carry out their job.
“The SDLP have been consistent in calling for an ambitious expansion of our public transport networks. However, it is going to be difficult to expand a workforce to grow our public transport network when staff are facing physical, verbal and sexual abuse on a daily basis.
“Everyone deserves to be safe in their workplace. I would appeal to the public to report any instances of abuse they witness when using public transport.”