Parenting · Special Needs

Train travel with a wheelchair

My daughter, who is a wheelchair user, had a hospital appointment in Crumlin hospital for Friday 16th January. As parking at Crumlin is a nightmare and I don’t enjoy that journey around the M50 and on the Long Mile Road, I decided to see if public transport would be an option for us. After some investigation I chose to travel from M3 Parkway in Co. Meath to Dublin Connolly, then get the LUAS to Drimnagh and finally walk to the hospital.

While checking train times online, I noticed that Iarnrod Éireann ask that passengers who will require assistance –in our case a ramp – give 24 hours’ notice of their journey when possible. This annoyed me slightly as surely a person who needs some help to use the train service in this country should be able – like anyone else here – to just arrive at a station and get on a train. But leaving that aside for a while, I dutifully rang the customer information line, and spoke to a very pleasant member of staff who took all the details of the train I intended us to travel on, and which station we would have to change at and assured me those details would be passed to the relevant stations.

She then asked me when we would be making our return journey. When I explained that we were going to Dublin for a hospital appointment and I couldn’t be certain at this point (this was a week in advance of us travelling) which train we would be getting home, she got a little flustered and repeatedly said we needed to book it in advance. Eventually she accepted that I would ring them as soon as I knew which train it would be but insisted that I give them at least two hours’ notice.

So on Friday morning we set off early for M3 Parkway. As the weather was bad my husband dropped us at the station and would collect us later. I hate driving in icy conditions. We were catching the 7.10 train from Parkway. We arrived in to get our tickets and when I asked about the ramp, the staff member in the ticket office said there was no notification of my request and commented that I was lucky the station was staffed that morning. This didn’t hugely inspire me with confidence. He was very helpful and got the ramp for us and we boarded the train without any problems. He also rang ahead to Clonsilla where we had to change to organise a ramp for us there, and also to Connolly so a ramp would be available there too.

All went very smoothly and the staff were unfailingly helpful and pleasant. Our journey home – which I was able to organise hours in advance – was generally uneventful, except that when we arrived at Clonsilla, I discovered that the station was unstaffed (the driver had helped us off the train). I was a little concerned so rang the customer information centre who could not tell me what I should do but suggested I ring Connolly station instead. The man who I spoke to at Connolly was very helpful, and told me he would make contact with the driver of the train we would be getting. Sure enough when the train arrived, the driver was happy to get out, sort the ramp and get us on board. He then did the same again when we arrived at M3 Parkway – which was unstaffed.

All of this was an interesting experience – although I like train travel I rarely get to do it now – and all of the staff I dealt with in person were helpful, professional and pleasant. I am left wondering though why Iarnrod Eireann make such a song and dance about booking assistance in advance when they then don’t pass the information on. Its not good enough.

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