A GROUP of commuters, some of whom are wheelchair bound, have vowed to continue protesting against plans to de-man their local train station.
Up to 60 people took their placards to the platforms of Bagenalstown train station to voice their anger at Iarnród Éireann’s plan to get rid of all station personnel. They’re going to replace them with so-called “customer service officers (CSOs)” on the actual trains to help wheelchair users on and off.
Four wheelchair users, including two children, were among the protesters who voiced their concern recently, including Kathleen Curran, whose 14-year-old son Aaron suffers from muscular dystrophy. With no car, they’re utterly dependent on the train to get to medical appointments in Carlow and Dublin.
“Aaron’s in an electric wheelchair, so it’s too heavy for me to cope on my own. He’s been in a wheelchair since he was eight and up to this point the staff here have been a great help. If we’re coming back from Dublin and there’s no-one in the Bagenalstown station, then the train driver helps us,” Kathleen told The Nationalist. “I’m really concerned about their plans to make the station automatic; it could cause us huge difficulties.”
In a statement, Iarnród Éireann confirmed that the station would be fully automatic by early July, citing falling ticket sales at the ticket booths as the reason for getting rid of station personnel and replacing them with vending machines. They defended this move, suggesting that customer service would be enhanced with the on-board customer service officers.
The company said: “We are rebalancing our customer service provision to a greater presence on board services and fewer in stations”.
“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.
However, cllr Andy Gladney who organised the protest, has vowed to continue to fight against the move.
“If we don’t protest, then we’re accepting them downgrading this facility. We’re the taxpayers! Who gives someone sitting in an office in down to downgrade this country station?” he asked.