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Dublin: 11°C Monday 4 July 2022

Donegal wheelchair user left without accessible bus to Dublin despite booking five days in advance

Bus Éireann has since apologised and compensated the family, which had to pay for a taxi to the capital.

Bus Éireann have apologised for the incident last week.
Bus Éireann have apologised for the incident last week.
Image: Sam Boal

BUS ÉIREANN HAS apologised for an incident involving a wheelchair user and his carer whose booked bus was not wheelchair accessible on arrival.

Pat Carter, who uses a wheelchair, and his wife and carer Rose booked two seats on a Bus Éireann bus from Letterkenny to Dublin on Friday 2 August. 

Bus Éireann requires wheelchair users to book their seat by phone at least 24 hours in advance of the journey on regional and expressway routes. 

Up to four seats must be removed from regional and expressway buses to make them wheelchair accessible. This is done in a garage before the journey takes place.

Other equipment such as a ramp or a lift, floor tracking and a restraint clamping system are also required for safety. This equipment is checked prior to departure. 

Rose Carter booked the seats five days in advance of their journey and was told the booking was confirmed on two separate occasions. They were instructed by a Bus Éireann worker to be at the Letterkenny bus station 25 minutes before the bus was due. 

Their son Kevin Carter told TheJournal.ie of the incident his parents experienced on Bus Éireann last week. They were travelling to Dublin to visit him for the weekend.  

“They arrived early to the station and when the bus arrived, it was not wheelchair accessible,” said Carter. 

“The driver said he had no knowledge of this booking and that this was the bus given to him that day for the route.”

They rang a Bus Éireann inspector in Dublin who said there had been a mix-up that day with buses. The driver and inspector said there was ‘nothing they could do’. 

Buses run every two hours from Letterkenny to Dublin, so the Carters waited for the next one in case the two were switched. 

“So they waited around for two hours, and when the next bus arrived it wasn’t wheelchair accessible either,” said Carter. 

Again, the Carters rang the inspector in Dublin who said there was nothing they could do at that stage. 

“They had booked a hotel in Dublin and it was too late to cancel that at this point, they were already hugely out of pocket,” said Carter. 

The parents ordered a taxi from Derry as they thought it would be cheaper. This brought them to Dublin at a cost of over £150 (€161). Bus Éireann offered to refund this fare after a formal complaint was made. 

“When my mum arrived in Dublin, she was a bag of nerves. They don’t use public transport often… The public transport facilities aren’t great in Letterkenny,” he said.

In a statement, Bus Éireann said they were investigating the incident on the Letterkenny bus. 

“We are extremely disappointed to hear of the recent incident and we are currently investigating it,” the statement said. 

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“We would like to sincerely apologise to the customer concerned for the difficulties experienced. We have contacted the customer directly and a full refund has been offered.”

Bus Éireann has said it is “committed to the provision of a fully accessible public transport system incorporating fully accessible vehicles and infrastructure”.

The fleet of Bus Éireann buses on the commuter and express services are 78% wheelchair accessible. However, not every bus stop is accessible.

The company says that even if seats were permanently removed from buses to allow for wheelchair space, the other equipment would still need to be checked before each journey with a wheelchair user. 

Kevin Carter made a formal complaint to the company after the incident. 

“It has destroyed any trust she [Rose] may have had in public transport. It’s inexcusable, to be honest,” he said. 

“It’s one thing to get the money back, but it will take a bit longer to get the trust back.”

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