Thursday 19 September 2019

Father of wheelchair user (9) hits out at 'constantly' out of order lifts at DART stations

Father Bernanrd Mulvany with his daughter Sophia (9) and son Liam (7) at Raheny station
Father Bernanrd Mulvany with his daughter Sophia (9) and son Liam (7) at Raheny station

Gabija Gataveckaite

The father of a wheelchair user (9) who has been forced to carry his daughter up steps in DART stations has taken matters into his own hands with a massive social media campaign.

Bernard Mulvany, from Marino in northside Dublin, was tired of having to carry his daughter up and down the stairs at DART stations throughout the city.

His daughter Sophia (9) was diagnosed with spina bifida and has been a wheelchair user since she was just 15 months old.

"I've often carried Sophia in her chair up flights of stairs but it's getting harder now because she's older," he told Independent.ie.

"It's not fair to ask another passenger to carry the chair and I don't want to leave it lying around either as it costs €9,500.

"She's well used to the issues we've faced but she's had enough of it now," he added.

Being frequent users of the DART, the family noticed that lifts were frequently out of order.

"Since we started the Access for All Ireland campaign a year ago we've noticed that it's been harder to get the information for which lifts are out of order and where," he said.

"So now, each morning, when people go to work they contact us and let us know which lifts are out of order and we post them on our Facebook page."

Even though customers are notified of lifts that are out of order on the Irish Rail mobile app, Mr Mulvany said that this is not always reliable.

Father Bernanrd Mulvany with his daughter Sophia (9) and son Liam (7) at Killester station
Father Bernanrd Mulvany with his daughter Sophia (9) and son Liam (7) at Killester station

"We always find discrepancies.

"If an out of order lift is not listed, we contact the station and let them know so the app can be updated.

"But we're not targeting Irish Rail workers, we're targeting the under-funding of the service because when it is addressed, it is always discarded."

According to the father-of-two, the same reasons have been given for lifts being frequently out of order at stations for several years.

"Since 2016, they've been giving us the same reasons- blaming it on anti-social behaviour, saying lifts aren't robust, or that there's no attendant.

"We've had enough of it now, people who are disabled feel very left out," he added.

For a wheelchair user to access public transport, either bus or rail, outside of Dublin they must give a prior notice of 24 hours so that ramps can be facilitated for their journey.

In Dublin, this period is reduced by half to 12 hours and a trial period of four hours is currently taking place.

"Even if the DART stayed at four hours notice, if it was a sunny day and we wanted to go to Dún Laoghaire, we couldn't go unless I was able to bring Sophia on and off the train myself," said Mr Mulvany.

"I had a woman get in touch with me last week saying that her family had a weekend in Dublin planned but had to take a taxi and pay €167 because the train couldn't facilitate her daughter's wheelchair.

"It's unbelievable in this day and age," he added.

According to Mr Mulvany, the lift at Seapoint station has been out of order for at least two months. He added that the stations at Hazelhatch, Dun Laoghaire, Clontarf, Newbridge and Tara Street are "constantly breaking down".

A spokesperson for Irish Rail confirmed that the lift is currently out of order at Seapoint.

"Seapoint is the only DART station at present where the lift is out and there is no alternative access," the spokesperson said.

"There are significant works taking place to improve reliability of the platform 2 lift here – it is due to be complete on 30th August (lift has been out of service since 11th July).  Customers are advised to use Blackrock or Salthill.

According to Irish Rail, Portmarnock has full access via rampways to both platforms as there are lifts there which are no longer in use.

"Tara St lifts are fine, but the escalators there were flood damaged, and are in the process of being repaired – expected to be back in service on 30th August also," the spokesperson added.

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