Seanad debates

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Public Transport

10:30 am

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party) | Oireachtas source

I know from my experience of transport campaigning and planning over 25 years is that when one designs access for all then everyone benefits. Let us take the Luas as an example, because it was designed as an accessible system. Such infrastructure benefits everyone, whether that be a parent with a child in a buggy, someone in a wheelchair or someone who is visually impaired because it has been designed for people with disability.

I want to give some further detail as background. Lifts at stations has been a critical issue for disability. This year, we have provided an investment of €5.8 million and an additional €2 million was provided in recognition that we need to accelerate the programme.

The Senator mentioned an incident that occurred at Connolly Station, which is a real concern. My understanding is that as there is not a mechanism or an automatic wheelchair ramp facility for heavy rail systems, someone from Irish Rail must be in attendance. In the instance cited, another passenger was in attendance for whatever reason, which is not acceptable. Irish Rail is developing a smartphone accessibility app to address some of the key communications breakdowns that occur - as human error can occur - when providing assistance to persons with disabilities. I hope that initiative may see such instances not happen in the future.

Let me refer to Mr. Morgan's experience on the coach. My understanding is, and the information that I now have, is that all long-distance coach types require the removal of up to four seats to be accessible and that is why there is a 24-hour notice requirement. I am surprised that the Dundalk route did not have a coach where seats could be taken out for whatever reason.

I have been told that in the case of long-distance coaches, they do not yet have anything other than high-floor options, which present some difficulties in terms of making travel easily accessible. For all public service obligation, PSO, regional commuter routes now - up to something like 50 km - new buses are coming that, typically, will have low-floor access thereby allowing wheelchair users to board with normal ramp access. So the situation is slowly changing. It is particularly difficult on older rail and on long-distance bus services but that should not stop us looking to make sure that they are as accessible as any new services that we provide.


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