Councillor queries fielded by an Irish Rail representative
A new era of customer service is dawning for Iarnród Éireann, according to passenger services manager John Reville.
Giving a presentation to members of Wicklow County Council last week, Mr Reville said that the company is currently conducting a review of its customer service.
He said that he was attending council meetings around the country to brief them of the changes before they were implemented.
Mr Reville said that the company had come to recognise that there is a greater needed for an on-board staff presence along routes, particularly the intercity routes. He also said that there had been a switch from the traditional purchase of tickets at stations to online sales.
Mr Reville said the plan was to have a staff member highly visible on board delivering a can-do attitude. He said 'every intercity route will have a customer representative responsible for customers' needs.
Cllr Jennifer Whitmore said while she understood the push to automated ticketing and online sales but said that some elderly people might not be able to use these services and pointed out that people with poor broadband connectivity would also struggle. She also expressed concerns that people with mobility issues had to give 24 hours notice to travel.
Cllr Tom Fortune pointed out that Kilcoole has a population of 4,000 but the train station didn't have any shelter. He also questioned the lack of stops at Kilcoole, stating that if the train were passing through the station he didn't see why it couldn't stop there too.
His request for a shelter at the station was supported by Cllr Nicola Lawless who also raised concerns about the accessibility of trains and queried the need for people with mobility issues having to give notice.
Cllr Miriam Murphy, herself a wheelchair user, said while she enjoyed using public transport she had a fear of being unable to board, and said that it was unfair that people with mobility issues had to give notice to ensure there were someone at the station to help them.
Cllr Derek Mitchell raised concerns about the planned increase in journey times and also the lack of bike parking spaces within Greystones station.
Cllr Michael O'Connor wondered if it were possible to coordinate bus and train timetables.
Cllr Sylvester Bourke wondered if it were possible to put a station in Avoca.
The disparity of fares between Greystones and Bray prompted concern from Cllr Gerry Walsh who said that the Greystones fare to Dublin was disproportionate to what was being charged from Bray. 'We should be trying to incentivise people to use public transport,' he said.
Cllr Irene Winters said that the Wicklow train was often delayed, while Cllr Grainne McLoughlin said that a ticket machine was also needed in Kilcoole as well as the shelter. Cllr Winters also asked about the emergency coastal works that were carried out in 2016 along the rail network.
She also said that while there are toilet facilities in Greystones station, they are not open.
Cllr Brendan Thornhill wondered if there were plans to introduce transport police, while Cllr Mary Kavanagh said it is 'discriminatory' that disabled travellers have to give notice.
Cllr Edward Timmins raised concerns about the car parking facilities at Sallins.
Cllr Pat Fitzgerald looked for an assurance that the Dublin-Rosslare line would not terminate in Enniscorthy.
Mr Reville said that a number of councillors had raised concerns about people with mobility issues boarding and alighting the train. He said the policy of providing 24 hours notice 'can be very, very unpopular', adding he had had several meetings with the Irish Wheelchair Association and was very conscious of the policy.
He said that between Tara, Pearse and Connolly stations the staff of Iarnrod Eireann helped 200 people with mobility issues on a daily basis, many on a walk-up basis.
'The policy of 24 hours' notice is to guarantee service - it's not mandatory. We deal with a lot of walk ups on a daily basis. We are moving this to a four hour notice period which has been received well.'
In terms of the intercity services, Mr Reville said that the trains do provide space for people in all types of wheelchairs but said he didn't see the fleet being modified in the near future. However, he said that the new customer services personnel will be very beneficial in unmanned stations.
In terms of Kilcoole, Mr Reville said that he didn't envisage a problem providing a shelter there and said he would look at the feasibility of trains passing through Kilcoole stopping there more often.
'I think we can look positively on it as long as it doesn't disrupt the timetable too much.'
Mr Reville said that he would be in favour of extra bike spaces but said that the station is quite narrow.
In respect of a station at Avoca, Mr Reville said that it wasn't on the cards at the moment, adding it wasn't included in any capital programme at the moment.
He also told Cllr Walsh that the fares are set by the National Transport Authority and Iarnród Éireann can't regulate them.
In respect of terminating the service before Rosslare, Mr Reville said that it was a suggestion contained in the rail review.