Wheelchair user locked on a train alone in the dark for 35 minutes in a Dublin station
A wheelchair user was left alone in the dark on a locked train in a Dublin station for more than half an hour after Iarnród Éireann staff failed to help him disembark.
Gerard Gallagher (24) travelled on the Sligo to Dublin service last week and was shocked when the train was shut down and locked without a member of staff checking the carriages at Connolly Station.
“Basically I boarded the train as normal. A staff member of Irish Rail said he would notify Connolly Station of my arrival and it must have fallen through the cracks. I can completely understand how someone could get busy and forget.
“Really it’s a systemic failure and I’m not blaming anyone in particular. It’s a wrong attitude for Iarnród Éireann to say that they’re ‘Proud to assist the transportation needs of mobility impaired’ because it’s not about doing favours. It's about providing an equal service to all passengers," he said.
Gerard, a Learning Support Officer in DIT, was locked inside the carriage for 35 minutes and feared that he would be there overnight until someone heard his calls for help.
“I waited for approximately 5 minutes and then realised that there were no Irish Rail staff members coming forward to provide the ramp. The power to the train was turned off and I was left in complete darkness for 35 minutes. All the doors closed around me.
“I tried contacting the office for Connolly Station but my phone died as there were no charge points on this train. I was completely alone and no one knew where I was. I pressed the emergency buttons on the train both at the wheelchair location and in the toilet but there was no response.
“I had to constantly shout for 30 minutes to try and raise the alarm. Eventually a cleaner on another platform heard me and staff members came to assist,” he said.
The 24-year-old said that he decided to go public with his experience to try to and improve transportation services for people with disabilities.
“It was the first time in many years that I felt completely disabled. I was trapped in the train and I thought I was going to be stuck there overnight,” he said.
“I have issued these concerns to Iarnród Éireann many times throughout the last few years both in 2008, 2010 and this week.
“If the trains had a roll-on, roll-off facility like the Luas it would greatly improve the experience for wheelchair users. Of course anything that eliminates the need for human assistance is appreciated by people with disabilities and it improves independence.
“If someone hadn’t been able to call out for help like I did, they definitely would have been stuck on the carriage until the morning,” he said.
In a statement to Independent.ie, Iarnród Éireann said that the incident was completely unacceptable and an investigation has been launched.
“What happened to Mr Gallagher was unacceptable, and we have apologised to him for the incident and the distress caused,” a spokesperson said.
“We are investigating the incident in full to establish what went wrong, and to ensure we prevent a recurrence. Our employees are proud to assist the transport needs of mobility and sensory impaired customers across the country on a daily basis, and we liaise with representative bodies through our Disability Users Group.
"We will work to ensure that nobody has to experience such an incident again," the spokesperson said.