‘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
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.
“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.
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.”
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.