MEMBERS of the public in Bagenalstown are furious after Iarnród Éireann announced that it was to de-man the local train station.
Councillor Andy Gladney is today staging a protest outside the historic building, with wheelchair users, to highlight fears that disabled people may be left stranded if there’s no-one at Bagenalstown train station to help them on and off trains.
“This just proves what the top brass at Iarnród Éireann think of rural Ireland. They don’t give a damn,” cllr Gladney told The Nationalist.
He’s so concerned about the issue that he and the mothers of several wheelchair users are protesting outside the station today (Tuesday) at 4pm.
The issue sparked debate last week at a Bagenalstown Municipal District meeting when councillor Arthur McDonald said that the de-manning of the station would be detrimental to wheelchair users, while cllr Gladney was worried about older people who may not be able to manage the automatic ticket machine. Iarnród Eireann also plans to lease out the beautiful historic building, which is also a cause of concern for locals and councillors.
“What are their intentions? This is a significant building, culturally,” cllr Michael Doran asserted.
Senior executive officer Josephine Kavanagh said that the council hadn’t received any notification from Iarnród Éireann about the changes, while it was agreed at the meeting that Carlow Co Council would write to the Department of Transport expressing its concerns.
Iarnród Éireann confirmed to The Nationalist that the station would be fully automatic by early July. In a statement, it said that ticket sales were falling at the ticket booths as more and more people opted to buy their tickets online. Because of this, it would be “rebalancing our customer service provision to a greater presence on board services and fewer in stations”.
In place of station masters and officers, it says it will have “dedicated customer service officers (CSOs) on board many services on this route and will have them on all services shortly” and that these staff would help wheelchair users on and off trains.
“This means that there will always be assistance for wheelchair customers at Muine Bheag with the on-board CSO there to help boarding and alighting,” the statement asserted.
The statement added that the CSOs would help customers with travel information, while they would also act as a deterrent to anti-social behaviour. The company also confirmed that the office spaces in the station would be leased out to a third party.
A spokesperson for Iarnród Eireann said that works to make Carlow town train station fully wheelchair accessible will start later this month and that the new footbridge and elevator should be completed by August. He said that the long-promised upgrade to make the station wheelchair-friendly was postponed because of the recession, but that Carlow was now “top of the list for a new footbridge”.