‘Wheelchair user left on trains by rail staff’

‘Wheelchair user left on trains by rail staff’

On several occasions this year, Irish Rail staff at Kent Station in Cork have failed to notice that Julie O’Leary, a wheelchair user, needed assistance in disembarking, she says.

A WHEELCHAIR user has been left on trains in Cork without assistance from Irish Rail staff on several occasions in the past year.

Julie O’Leary, who is a member of the National Council for Special Education, travels by train from Cork to Dublin several times a month.

She said that staff have left her on trains without assistance to disembark.

“On three occasions in the last year, I have been completely forgotten on the return journey home to Cork late in the evening, and many other times the train has been entirely empty and the cleaning staff alert the support staff, before anyone comes to help with a ramp,” said Ms O’Leary.

“On one occasion, fellow passengers got me off the train. Another time, I waited almost half an hour until a member of staff came and the most recent time the driver of the train took me off.

“On each occasion, I highlighted the issue to support staff and each time they jokingly remarked about Heuston station not ringing them or they forgetting me,” she added.

“Being forgotten is not funny. I’ve left Kent station a number of times in tears. It feels awful to be forgotten.

“A lack of communication between stations seems to be a big problem.”

Ms O’Leary said that while some staff are pleasant, others are in need of disability awareness training.

The Evening Echo revealed this week that just 10% of Irish Rail staff have completed this training.

“Irish Rail staff need more training, particularly in regional stations like Cork,” said Ms O’Leary.

“The staff in the assistance and customer service in Heuston are superb, so good service is achievable, but it needs to be consistent.

“It’s clear the lads in Cork need more training and they need to raise their expectations about what people with disabilities can do,” she added.

“I am very capable, good at my job and efficient, but I need a hand to get around. It’s not rocket science to make it happen. In Kent Station, I find the laid-back and often patronising attitude quite challenging.”

Ms O’Leary said she had not complained officially to Irish Rail about the incidents, for fear of being labelled a nuisance.

“I have no choice but to ask for help when I use the train, so I fear making the situation worse by drawing attention to myself.”

Disability officer for the Cork City Partnership, Donie O’Leary, raised the lack of training with Minister of State for Disabilities, Finian McGrath, and senior Department of Transport officials, last week.

He said they acknowledged the deficit and would be focusing on an increase in training.

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