This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 2 °C Monday 21 October, 2019
Advertisement

Does Ireland provide equal public transport to wheelchair users?

Wheelchair users are to be treated the same as any other passengers under the law, but is that the case?

LAST WEEK A woman who uses a wheelchair took to Facebook to share her experience of using public transport in Ireland.

She shared how in just one day, both rail and bus services in Dublin failed her, writing:

This is the normal everyday humiliation for people with a disability in Ireland 2014.

bus Source: Aideen Horgan/Facebook

The Irish Wheelchair Association confirmed to TheJournal.ie that they had been in touch with Dublin Bus and Iarnroid Eireann about the incident, stating that they work closely with all transport operators.

Laws

Under the European Regulation 181/2011 which came into effect 1 March 2013, the needs of people with disabilities or reduced mobility must be met.

The Transport for Ireland website states:

Both Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann are obliged to provide services to people with disabilities.

The directive was set out to ensure that people with a disability have the same rights to travel as other passengers and that they are able to travel without difficulties and at no extra cost.

Bus drivers strike Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Carriers, travel agents and tour operators can only refuse to sell you a ticket or take you on board if it’s physically impossible given the design of the vehicle, the bus stop or the terminal building or doing so would breach health and safety requirements.

In terms of rail travel, the Transport for Ireland website states that Regulation (EC) No 1371/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on rail passengers’ rights and obligations gives disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility the following rights:

Disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility have the right to non-discriminatory access to transport at no additional charge when buying a ticket or making a reservation…

If a company is in breach of the above the regulations state that there has to be an adequate complaints procedure.

Quality of service

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Arklow Councillor, wheelchair user and chairperson of the Arklow Disability Action Group, Miriam Murphy said that the quality of service provided to people with a disability is entirely dependent on where you live.

In Arklow there is a real problem with accessible transport,” she said, while it is commendable that some new fleets say there are wheelchair accessible, it is not worth much if the kerbing required to allow the system to work properly is not installed.

There have been some great improvements. I would use the rail service from Arklow to Dublin, where a portable ramp is required. Often times, there is no one at the stations, so the driver has one on board the train. Sometimes the driver has to get out and come down to the carriage I am in to let me off.
On the express train they only had one space allocated for a wheelchair user and as it had already been booked, I could not book it. I got in touch with them to say that I needed to get that train, so they organised a taxi for me as they were not able to provide a service to me. Under the law they are obliged to provide me with an equal service.

Dart Train's 25 years of service Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

In terms of buses, it really is up to the individual driver most of the time. Some might find it acceptable to take that extra time to let people on or off and others sometimes don’t. However, for as many bad stories there are there are good ones,” she said.

“We have a long way to go until we have equal public transport. I don’t think accessibility is high on the priority list of the regulators,” said Murphy.

However, a spokesperson for the NTA said that accessibility was “central” to their users.

Investment 

In terms of investment in access, the NTA’s annual report for 2012 stated it invested €1.78 million into improving accessibility. The report stated that the bulk of the accessibility funding was allocated to Irish Rail for the implementation of access improvements at rail stations.

Most of the remaining funding was allocated to a grant scheme for purchasing or modifying vehicles for use as wheelchair accessible taxis and hackneys.

  • Irish Rail – €1.46 million
  • Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Grant Scheme for taxis and hackneys  - €270,000
  • Dublin Bus €50,000

The bus companies stated that often times if there is an issue with the accessibility it is not due to a fault with the vehicle but the condition of the bus stop and kerb that prevents the ramps from working effectively.

A spokesperson from the NTA said that accessibility is central to users stating that there is an active project underway where local authorities are due to take over the maintenance of bus stops and shelters. “This is to ensure that there is a consistency of accessibility around the country,” she said.

Bus Eireann Source: Barry Cronin

She added that the NTA wanted to create “shared bus stops”.

Currently, there are a lots of bus stops at the same location, such as Kildare Street. We want there to be one big stop in these places, where there would be a large shelter, that would be used by all companies. Accessibility is all part of this new infrastructure.

Complaints

TheJournal.ie asked Dublin Bus, Irish Rail and Bus Eireann to provide the figures of how many complaints they receive about accessibility.

In 2014, Dublin Bus said they received 20 submissions to date to their customer comment team regarding accessibility issues in general, although they said these are not specifically regarding accessibility issues for wheelchair users, adding:

 Each day, over 400,000 trips are taken on Dublin Bus so this figure is quite low.

Dublin Bus announced this year that 100% of their fleet is accessible.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, they said their entire fleet is low floor wheelchair accessible with all buses being designated wheelchair space. They added that newer buses have a wheelchair space and a buggy space and all drivers receive accessibility and disability awareness training.

In addition, they said that over 2,000 bus stops have ID numbers provided for people with a visual impairment and digital and audio announcements are available on board.

We request customers to submit their issue in writing (email or letter) to our Customer Comment Team. Regarding reports of a fault with a ramp on our services, the details are submitted to the depot where the bus operates from. Our maintenance team in that depot will then conduct a check on the ramp and ensure it is working correctly and make any necessary repairs.

They added that as part of their accessibility policy, Dublin Bus employs a team who undertake random checks of buses to ensure ramps are working correctly when buses are in service.

“If it is found a ramp is not working correctly, while the bus is in service, a member of this team or the bus driver will report this to our Central Control team and, where possible, the bus is returned to the depot for repairs,” they said.

Luas operators state that they have received no complaints as it is designed to be wheelchair friendly.

Bus Eireann said they receive a small number of complaints annually about wheelchair accessibility, with four made to date in 2014.

They added that while ”the majority of Bus Éireann’s fleet of buses and coaches are accessible for disabled people and wheelchair users, the majority of bus stops are not suitable for the disembarkment of disabled passengers and this is a matter for local authorities and the National Transport Authority”.

Irish Rail said to date this year they have received 12 complaints relating to accessibility.

They said that all complaints are logged and investigated.

The vast majority of our stations are accessible, there are a very small number of stations, such as Athy, Ennis and Boyle that have only one accessible platform, when a wheelchair user wishes to alight or join the train at one of these stations, the train is brought into the accessible platform. Rathcoole station in Wicklow is not accessible as it is right on the beach, but there are stations nearby that are accessible.

Shutterstock-192237287 Source: Shutterstock

100% accessible 

The National Transport Authority told TheJournal.ie that currently, Bus Eireann’s regional city fleets are 100% accessible, 56% of fleet is accessible by lift and stops are wheelchair accessible in regional cities, but limited accessibility in rural towns.

They said that Dublin Bus is 100% wheelchair accessible and that all stops are fully accessibly for low-floor buses, while Iarnród Éireann had portable ramps to access trains. The NTA said that 79 of 143 stations have received significant accessibility upgrades. They said passenger assistance is provided with 24-hour notice. 

In terms of local and rural links provided through Local Link, the NTA said that there are high levels of wheelchair accessibility in services provided by rural transport groups, with 74% of trips being fully or partially accessible, with 34% buses having a lift and 15% having a ramp.

Improvements

A spokesperson from National Disability Authority said that “major progress” had been made towards the achievement of accessibility by Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann and Iarnród Eireann and the introduction and extension of accessible Luas services.

A spokesperson for the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) said that there have been “huge improvements” in public transport for wheelchair users in recent years, but said that issues, like that of Aideen’s, did occur on occasion.

They added that they continually have representations and committee meetings with operators on how to improve the service, but said that they would receive complaints about services “from time to time”.

“With the rail service, users have to be very organised and this can be frustrating. They have to organise their journey well in advance and contact the station manager to ensure that there is a staff member there to operate the ramp for them so they can get on and off the train,” she said.

Stations

“We would have concerns about things like unmanned stations,” she said, adding that they continue to “strive so that all Dart stations and Darts are fully accessible. She added that the issue is even greater for wheelchair users in rural areas where they often rely on the IWA transport supports as well as taxis that can be expensive.

The NTA said that under their 2014/early 2015 work programme there were a number of improvements to be carried out such as funding for Bus Éireann to purchase 57 new accessible buses/coaches and funding to Dublin Bus for 65 double deck buses and for completion of next stop sign information.

The NTA will continue to fund Travel Assistance and they will also complete national audit of bus stops, such as their location co-ordinates and condition.

Read: Blind adventurer to give TED talk on hope four years after becoming paralysed>

Read: Man in wheelchair carried off DART as no ramp available at Donaghmede station>

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

Read next:

COMMENTS (38)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel