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Sunday 4 December 2016

Wheelchair user criticises Iarnród Éireann after driver 'refused to put down ramp because they weren't trained'

'Six flights to Australia yet I can't get 20 minutes up the road'

Published 08/09/2016 | 12:41

Anne Marie Champ (inset) said she was left stranded in Portlaoise train station
Anne Marie Champ (inset) said she was left stranded in Portlaoise train station

A wheelchair user has criticised Iarnrod Eireann after she claimed the driver of her train refused to put down the ramp because they "weren't trained to do so".

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Ann Marie Champ was on her daily commute from Dublin to Newbridge when she said she was forced to continue on to Kildare Train Station.

"I couldn't understand it. All the driver had to do was put the ramp down for me. My wheelchair is electric so I didn't need to be manually handled or anything," Ms Champ told Independent.ie.

"The driver was rather sharp, they said; 'I'm the driver and you'll have to go to Kildare'."

When she arrived at Kildare station, an employee phoned a wheelchair taxi but there were none available. Ann Marie said she had to wait almost an hour for a taxi to arrive from Portlaoise.

"I flew to Australia last year and had to get six flights and had no issues. It only took five minutes over the phone to organise. Yet, I can't get 20 minutes up the road because of the refusal to lower a piece of aluminium," she said.

Ann Marie Champ was left frustrated with the situation during her commute
Ann Marie Champ was left frustrated with the situation during her commute

Ms Champ commutes from Newbridge to Heuston Station in Dublin five times a week and said staff at both stations are familiar with the assistance she requires.

She told of how a customer service representative at Heuston informed her that day that there would be nobody to assist her off the train at Newbridge. Usually when this happens, Ms Champ said the driver is notified and they lower the ramp.

"I get the same train every morning and I always tell them in Heuston if there is a change to my schedule. I presented myself at the customer service desk like normal. There was a new guy there and I told him to let the driver know to let me off at Newbridge."

On the night of the incident, Ann Marie tweeted Iarnrod Eireann and received a response advising her to make a formal complaint, which she did.

After a week of no response, she took to Facebook to express her frustration.

"The only reason I put up a Facebook post was to link it to my Twitter account so I could tweet them. I shared the status and I spoke to their Accessibility Officer last week.

"She apologised and promised a formal response early this week. That hasn't happened. I am now being told there was a miscommunication with the driver, but there wasn't. She clearly told me I couldn't get off the train," she said.

In the written complaint she posted on Facebook, Ann Marie said she had been rerouted twice in one week: "I am also incredibly embarrassed by both incidents as they both took place in front of other passengers, so they were made aware that my chair and I were the cause of the delay and disruption to their journey."

Under her Facebook post, another wheelchair user responded stating she had experienced similar issues when travelling by train.

"I'm not the first person this has happened to. This has been happening for years, yet they have signs saying they welcome passengers with special needs and they are in compliance with the Equal Status Act," she added.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Accessibility Officer for the company, Geraldine Campbell said Iarnrod Eireann will be issuing a formal reply to Ms Champ over the next day or two.

She explained that there has been a delay in replying as she had to wait to receive a report on the incident and speak to the appropriate staff members.

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