There’s been anti-social behaviour on the 40 bus route through Finglas since the 1980s, says local Martin Hoey. “Most of us are fed up with it.”
Most often, stones are thrown. At times, windows are smashed.
When enough of this happens, Dublin Bus cancels trips along the route, which runs from Liffey Valley to Charlestown, leaving residents without a service.
While Dublin Bus drivers say they’ve tried several solutions and that bigger issues are at work in Finglas, others see the cancellation policy as collective punishment for locals, and wonder whether there might be a better way.
Hoey estimates that stones are thrown at buses passing through Finglas between 10 and 30 times a year.
A Dublin Bus spokesperson said they could not comment on incidents along the 40 route without knowing specific dates and times, nor could they comment on cancellations or the curtailment policy.
But Hoey says that if one window is smashed, Dublin Bus policy is to turn off the engine and cancel the journey. If two windows are destroyed, then the 40 service is cancelled for the day, he says. A driver on the Dublin Bus 40 route said the same.
Hoey and other locals have been asking Dublin Bus to take a different approach.
“What we asked for, for years, if there is a curtailment as such, that the bus is diverted off the section that’s causing the problem,” says Hoey. “We’ve always felt that [Dublin Bus] didn’t want to discuss it, though.”
Perhaps a speedier response from gardaí to the problem of stone-throwing is needed, says Fianna Fáil councillor for Ballymun Paul McAuliffe.
McAuliffe says that the work of Hoey – who has liaised with Dublin Bus on behalf of locals for several years to try tackle the issue – and others has helped ease the problem somewhat in recent years, but it persists. “I don’t feel that there’s justification for the service being suspended for the entire day, though,” he said.
Community gardaí do get involved, but there could be a greater role, he says. “There certainly needs to be more coordination between [all parties].”
There needs to be better communication too, says Labour Councillor Andrew Montague. “It used to affect me myself and I certainly let Dublin Bus know,” he said.
“I can understand from a health-and-safety point of view, not even the drivers, but the passengers. But there should have been better communication, notices put up on bus stops even.”
With the real-time passenger information system, it wouldn’t be hard to give people a heads up. “People could be standing there waiting. You could be going into hospital for a check-up, going for a job interview, so it’s not a good way to treat the customer,” says Montague.
There’s the rub: Finglas locals like Hoey feel there simply isn’t adequate communication when the 40 route is curtailed or cancelled. Or when they’ve tried to talk to Dublin Bus in the past.
“When they have engaged with residents they don’t like us going public with the details [of solutions],” he says. “The issue I have with that is then who is it for?”
It is elderly people in Finglas who are most affected when service is withdraw, he says.
The Old Ways
A spokesperson for Dublin Bus said that anti-social behaviour and vandalism has fallen in recent years since the exact-fare system came in, as well as CCTV and security screens for the driver.
“The entire Dublin Bus fleet is fully fitted with CCTV cameras with up to 10 internal cameras and 2 external cameras fitted on the more modern vehicles in the fleet,” they said. Staff are trained in how to respond when riders misbehave.
But it would be good to have more people on the ground, as there was a few years ago with an inspector on the route, says Hoey. “The inspector would tell people along the route [about cancellations] but that doesn’t happen anymore. Something like that would be very simple.”
A few years ago, locals also wanted to do a poster campaign around stone-throwing, but Dublin Bus wasn’t supportive, he said. “We just got a negative response,” says Hoey.
Dublin Bus didn’t respond to a query about engagement with locals who use the route.
Nicky Hubbard, who has been driving the bus route for 20 years, said that Dublin Bus did have a programme some years back to raise awareness about stone-throwing in the area.
But the problem persisted. “It’s a hard call,” says Hubbard. “We’re always open to suggestions but the paramount thing is the safety of the passengers but also the safety of the drivers. I mean if a rock comes through the side window and hits the driver, they’d be killed stone-dead.”
In past years, gardaí would travel the route at night. “This worked very, very well because if anyone sees a guard going up and down it curtails the problem and also makes the other people feel not so vulnerable,” says Hubbard.
Staff shortages mean that gardaí no longer come aboard, though, says Hubbard. The Garda Press Office did not respond to queries about whether it planned to resume this practice on the 40 route.
A Hard Call
Anti-social behaviour, the stone-throwing and window smashing, has come in waves over the years, Hubbard says, but that it has gotten “a little better”.
Hubbard says that he and other bus drivers would often ensure that each person got home before the service was canceled for the night.
But that leaves them open to criticism if something did happen, he says. “If there’s a problem that there’s a situation there again the company will say, ‘Well why’d you go through there, you were told to stop it?'”
In other words, drivers can be caught in the middle.
Hubbard sees education as key to tackling the problems. “It is a hard situation,” he says. “But here’s the thing: somebody knows the guys who are doing this. They’re somebody’s children, they’re somebody’s sons.”
He’s the last one who wants to cancel buses out there at nighttime, or even daytime, says Hubbard. “I have a sister who lives in Finglas and has a handicapped child (…) But somebody knows these guys. It’s just a matter of educating them in school.”