Passengers on Irish Rail service from Westport like ‘sardines in a tin’
FF councillor made comments on Liveline, described incident as health and safety risk
The 7.50am service became increasingly congested along its route before reaching peak capacity at Portarlington. Photograph: Irish Rail
Passengers on Irish Rail’s Westport to Dublin Heuston line were packed like “sardines in a tin” on their way to the All-Ireland Hurling Final on Sunday.
“It was like a Scooby Doo mystery tour, there was no E [carriage],” Brendan Mulroy, a Fianna Fáil councillor from Westport, told Liveline radio following travellers’ search for a non-existent fifth carriage where they had booked seats.
The 7.50am service became increasingly congested along its route before reaching peak capacity at Portarlington. The train was booked out beforehand but people were able to purchase an open ticket at the station and board regardless.
“Best way I can describe it is if you can think back to Hill 16 or an old terrace at Lansdowne Road, that sort of a feeling where people are all around you and you cannot move,” said Mr Mulroy. “It was full to capacity. People could not physically get in the doors when the doors opened.”
He described the incident as a health and safety risk. “In the event of the train coming to a sudden stop someone would have got badly hurt. In the event of the train having a bad accident . . . the emergency services [would] arrive ready to cater for 300 when in fact there were 600 people on it.”
“I talked to different people all through the day yesterday when we came off the train – there was old people there who were very agitated, very upset.”
Mike Walsh, who was travelling to the All-Ireland and boarded the train at Portarlington, said he shouldn’t have been allowed to do so.
“I regret squeezing myself on to that train. I travelled with my daughter and a few friends and I was very concerned for everyone around me. I actually couldn’t put my hand in my pocket to get out my phone. Sardines in a tin we were like,” he said.
“I must compliment everyone on the train, the people were fantastic. Good humoured, there was no alcohol or anything involved like that, everyone behaved impeccably.”
Irish Rail have apologised to customers who experienced discomfort and stated that anyone who pre-booked but did not have a seat can claim a refund.
Barry Kenny of Irish Rail said a mechanical issue resulted in the train being one carriage shorter than planned. “Because it was All-Ireland Final day, we had other matches and extra trains operating right around the network . . . unfortunately we simply didn’t have any additional capacity to be able to address that factor.”
He said demand was unanticipated. “If you were travelling from Tipperary, from Kilkenny, and from Galway, we did have a very well-publicised advanced-booking-only arrangement for those routes. Obviously Mayo wasn’t participating, but there was very heavy demand on that particular service so in light of this, we will review.”
“Train are designed to safely accommodate heavy loading, but we do recognise it’s not what people should reasonably expect when they’re travelling long distances, so we do apologise for that.”