There has been a 22 per cent rise in the number of graffiti attacks on trains with clean-up costs rising to more than €622,000 a year, according to Irish Rail.
A spokesman said a developing trend was for groups of vandals to attack in-service Dart trains, typically preventing them from leaving a station while cans of spray paint are emptied on the carriage walls and windows.
Irish Rail said there were 195 attacks on trains, mainly on ones stationed in depots at night, during 2017. These were cleaned at a cost of €444,000.
But in 2018 the number of attacks increased to 237, with associated costs rising by €178,000.
Because of the increase in passenger journeys in recent years and consequent requirement for trains, it is no longer possible to take carriages out of service immediately for cleaning.
The result is a “noticeable” increase in graffiti on trains – particularly in the Dublin area – and a stain on the transport firm’s good reputation for cleanliness, the company said.
In addition, graffiti vandals spray-paint walls, signal boxes and even the structures holding up the live overhead electric wires. Even the sea walls at south Dublin’s Merrion gates have become targets for graffiti.
In recent months a number of people have been apprehended by gardaí and some successful prosecutions have taken place, with more prosecutions pending.
Irish Rail said one of the most worrying aspects – apart from the danger of the vandals being electrocuted or run over – was the increase in attacks on in-service trains.
In Clongriffin, on Dublin’s northside, a Dart train was attacked by about a dozen people last May. Wearing balaclavas they stormed the carriages on a Tuesday night, threatening passengers and using blocks of wood to prevent the doors from closing.
After spray-painting parts of the train and causing extensive damage, the gang appeared to become engaged in an internal dispute and fighting broke out among themselves. A number of passengers reported some of the attackers had knives. The attackers eventually fled, running along the tracks as gardaí were alerted
Irish Rail has described the events as an “unprecedented graffiti attack” and an “aggressive and threatening criminal activity”.
A spokesman said, “Whereas previously graffiti attacks were predominantly depot-based, increased security in those locations has caused attackers to be more opportunistic while trains are in service at various locations.”
He added, “As part of general measures to address anti-social behaviour, increased security patrols at stations and mobile teams” were being deployed.
“We are also seeking prosecutions, with a number of successful cases, and pending prosecutions. The fact is, again as the Clongriffin incident illustrates, that this is vandalism pure and simple, which impacts on our services through both fleet availability and the rising costs of repairs which could be better spent directly on improving services for customers.”