Irish Rail unable to alert customers of train delays
Irish Rail is unable to communicate with customers in dozens of stations across the country unless a staff member is present.
The company has admitted that large parts of the network are communications blackspots, as controllers are only able to tap into public announcement (PA) systems in a limited number of stations to alert passengers of delays or cancellations.
It comes after some 5,000 travellers were delayed for up to three hours over the August Bank Holiday weekend after a train broke down at Monasterevin in Co Kildare.
There was no information provided to many customers travelling to Galway, Cork, Portlaoise, Limerick, Tralee, Galway, Westport and Ballina.
Some 27 trains were delayed for periods ranging from 30 minutes to three hours, after the 1pm service from Dublin Heuston to Cork failed half an hour into its journey last Saturday.
A spokesman said only limited announcements could be made, and that the company was examining ways to improve communications.
A detailed plan for customer information systems, including screens at all stations, centralised PA and interactive displays, would cost up to €30m, he said. Cheaper options were being considered as a short-term solution.
"We have centralised PA from our Dublin Central Traffic Control covering the entire DART network, northern line to Dundalk, then lines to Maynooth and M3 Parkway, Rathdrum and Monasterevin," he said.
"We have centralised PA in Mallow and Athlone also. Athlone covers stations between Ennis and Athenry, and Mallow covers the Midleton line.
"There is local PA in all the stations, but a staff member must be present. We have a detailed plan for customer information systems which is about new systems, information screens at all the stations but it will cost multi-millions."
He added that the delay last weekend was "appalling", and he urged customers to seek a refund. "It's undoubtedly our worst delay experience of the year to date. It was an appalling delay and we would apologise to those affected.
"We are conducting a review (into the lack of communication). There should have been better information on our website," he added.
He also defended a failure to provide alternative transport, such as buses, saying it would have been "impossible" to cater for the number of people involved, and that it could have taken up to two hours for buses to arrive. "It was not initially anticipated that the delay would be as extensive as it transpired," he added.
Customers affected by the delays are entitled to a 50pc refund voucher for details in excess of 60 minutes, and a full refund voucher applies after two hours.
EU rules allow customers to request cash instead, but these are reduced to 25pc of the ticket price for delays between 60 and 119 minutes, and 50pc for a delay of 120 minutes or more. For customers who book online, the refund is put back on the card used to make the booking.