herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Anger of special needs group as trip turns to nightmare

Heuston Station, children forced to sit on tables on the train and the exits on the train being blocked by prams and wheelchairs
Heuston Station, children forced to sit on tables on the train and the exits on the train being blocked by prams and wheelchairs

A day out for a children's special needs group was ruined when children and carers were separated on a nightmare train journey home.

A group of 54 people, including 16 children with special needs and four wheelchair users from AIRC Mayo, travelled to Dublin to visit the zoo.

They used pre-booked seats they had arranged months in advance to travel from Castlebar to Dublin, but were split up on the return journey and had to store wheelchairs and prams against exit doors.

Irish Rail said last night that they were sorry for any difficulties, but that the group had boarded the wrong carriage.

Cramped

Chairwoman of AIRC Kathryn Connor said she tried to fix the situation when she realised there were no seats reserved for the group. She said there were also no ramps to help them board.

"All the kids in the wheelchairs were cramped into the hall where the toilets are. My little man doesn't like small spaces and he was roaring crying, and that hurt me mentally.

"There were children with really high sensory needs banging their heads and shaking their heads. Mums were getting stressed," she said.

Some of the party were given seats by other passengers or after travellers left the train along the route.

Ms Connor said there was also an issu e with the train journey to Dublin as she wasn't able to use the toilet onboard to change her son James (8) as it was covered in vomit.

"We fundraised for this for a year-and-a-half.... We have saved for this so parents could have one day out," she said.

A spokesman for Irish Rail apologised.

"Seats had been reserved for the entire group in Carriage C, and this booking was displayed above seats. However, the group appears to have boarded Carriage D directly.

"We would have ensured that the group received any assistance required and were seated together," he said.

"We appreciate this resulted in a journey which was uncomfortable and upsetting, and regret any misunderstanding".

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