Calls for fully accessible train platforms across rail network

Wheelchair users upset and exhausted by constant breakdown of lifts at train stations

 

The “constant breakdown of lifts” in Dart and train stations is “exhausting and upsetting” for wheelchair users, forcing many to give up on going out at all, disability activists say.

A protest, organised by the father of a wheelchair user, calling for fully accessible train platforms across the rail network will take place at Clontarf Dart station on Friday morning.

Bernard Mulvany says his daughter, Sophia (9), who has spina bifida has “less rights than her younger brother” to access public transport.

The protest is supported by the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) and the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA).

Since he began, over a year ago, posting updates on which lifts were not working across Dublin, he gets daily texts from wheelchair users and their families with their updates. He had reports this week of lifts out of order at Clontarf, Connolly, Bayside, Clongriffin, Tara Street, Sandycove, and Seapoint Dart stations, as well as Dunboyne, Lusk and Rush commuter stations.

Barry Kenny, spokesman for Irish Rail, confirmed lifts were out of order in Bayside, Seapoint, Sandycove, Killiney, Clongriffin and Connolly, adding they were due to be “restored this week”.

Lifts are necessary for users of wheelchairs, mobility scooters and buggies, to go to and from platforms.

At Seapoint station, where a sign blocking the lift says it will be out of use for “essential maintenance” from July 9th to 22nd, the lift was still out of use on July 24th. To get Sophia to the northbound platform, her father needs to take her out of her chair, leaving it at the top of two flights of steps, carry her down and place her on the ground.

“You couldn’t leave her on her own on a seat because she could fall,” he explains. “So the ground is the safest place.” Then he must run back up the steps to get the wheelchair, worth €10,000 and Sophia’s only way of getting around, hoping it is still there.

“You might go try to get assistance, go try to get somebody to come and help, but not all stations have a station guard or even a ticket inspector any more,” he says. “If you’re in a wheelchair and are on your own, a lot of people just give up on even trying to go out. You stay at home.

“Other times you could be on the train and get to your destination and find the lifts aren’t working there. It can be a huge trauma.”

‘Huge disruption’

Joan Carthy, national advocacy officer with the IWA, described as a “huge, exhausting and upsetting issue” for members that “a lot of lifts are out of order on a frequent basis and for long periods of time”, while Catherine Stuart, head of adult services with the CRC, said lift problems at stations could “cause huge disruption to community outings which has an impact on the schedule for the day and this can be quite stressful for people with autism spectrum disorder”.

Both called for greater consultation from Irish Rail on issues affecting their members’ access to the rail network, while Mr Mulvany said “solid investment in upgrading all lifts” as well as “bringing rail staff back into the stations” were necessary.

Mr Kenny said lifts were maintained by a private, specialised company and most of the breakdowns were due to vandalism.

“We apologise for the issues experienced, particularly in locations where there have been recurring issues. We are confident that the works currently taking place will improve reliability.

“Separately, there will also be a more significant programme of investment in lift replacement over the coming years, which will see new and more durable units installed.”