‘Ev­ery drive that you take, some­body jumps out in front of you by mis­take’

Driving a Luas is fraught with ten­sion but feels like be­ing ‘a fly on the wall in the city’, says rel­a­tive new­comer

The Irish Times - - Home News - Mark Hil­liard

Ev­ery day is dif­fer­ent. The track is the same but ev­ery­thing go­ing on around ev­ery other side of it is dif­fer­ent and that is the joy of if for me

Maeve Kin­sella winces when she con­sid­ers the num­ber of times cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans emerge with­out warn­ing in front of her Luas tram.

Near-misses are far more com­mon than peo­ple might think, and the most no­table thing to Kin­sella is that the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who may have ended up un­der the wheels don’t re­alise how close they came.

“Ev­ery day. Ev­ery drive that you take some­body’s jumped out in front of you by mis­take. Cy­clists have ear­phones in, peo­ple are tex­ting on their phone. Ev­ery sin­gle mo­ment, that hap­pens,” she says.

A rel­a­tively new driver on Dublin’s Luas line – she be­gan in Oc­to­ber last year – Kin­sella is clearly en­joy­ing her job, watch­ing as she is the move­ment of a cap­i­tal city from a front-row seat.

But she is ea­ger too to dis­pel the idea that driving a tram is easy. Not a lot of peo­ple re­alise, she seems to sug­gest, just how in­ten­sive their train­ing is.

Ac­ci­dents

“You nearly learn how to read peo­ple,” she says. “You nearly see it [a po­ten­tial in­ci­dent on the line] hap­pen be­fore it does most of the time and I think that is why there are so lit­tle ac­ci­dents . . . you get to know the be­hav­iour of peo­ple.

“Nine times out of 10, the per­son that was al­most hit doesn’t even re­alise.”

The 34-year-old has worked in a va­ri­ety of jobs: in a night­club, a phar­macy, most re­cently selling make-up in a de­part­ment store, but says this is the first job that keeps her en­gaged.

She and her col­leagues be­gin their days as early as 4am when they “sweep” the line to en­sure there are no is­sues, be­fore pick­ing up the first early-morn­ing pas­sen­gers an hour and a half later.

From their se­cure “cabs” they keep their eyes on the tracks but they hear ev­ery­thing be­hind them and see ev­ery­thing around them.

“Ev­ery day is dif­fer­ent. The track is the same but ev­ery­thing go­ing on around ev­ery other side of it is dif­fer­ent and that is the joy of it for me,” she says.

“You see peo­ple chang­ing. You nearly know peo­ple’s jobs, where they go, where they go for lunch. You start see­ing that. It’s like be­ing a fly on the wall in the city.”

There comes with the job a sense of great re­spon­si­bil­ity for the pas­sen­gers and road users and the need to be coun­ter­in­tu­itive, to un­learn the rules of the road from the per­spec­tive of a mo­torist.

Vul­ner­a­ble

Kin­sella, like ev­ery other driver, has seen her fair share of in­ci­dents aboard trams, but it is the chal­lenges faced by some of the city’s res­i­dents that stay with her most.

She im­me­di­ately thinks about the home­less and vul­ner­a­ble – those who use the trams for warmth, and those spot­ted on the track­side foot­paths.

“You see these peo­ple go from [be­ing] okay, walk­ing around with their mates, to not be­ing able to stand up at the side of the road,” she says.

“You see the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the peo­ple. You know where they used to live, you know where they’re liv­ing now.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: DARA MAC DÓNAILL

Maeve Kin­sella: she and her col­leagues be­gin their days from as early as 4am when they “sweep” the line to en­sure there are no is­sues, be­fore pick­ing up the first early-morn­ing pas­sen­gers an hour-and-a-half later.

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