herald

Saturday 21 September 2019

Dad has to carry disabled girl up stairs as dart lifts 'always breaking down'

The father of a nine-year-old wheelchair user has launched a campaign to tackle lifts which are "constantly" out of order at Dart stations.

Bernard Mulvany, from Marino in Dublin's northside, decided to take matters into his own hands after having to carry his daughter Sophia up and down the stairs at stations across the city.

Sophia was diagnosed with spina bifida and has been a wheelchair user since she just was 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," Mr Mulvany told the Herald.

"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."

Harder

Being frequent Dart users, the family noticed that lifts were often 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," Mr Mulvany added.

"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 this is not always reliable.

"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," he said.

"But we're not targeting Irish Rail workers, we're targeting the underfunding 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 out of order 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," he said.

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

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 made available.

In Dublin, this period is reduced to 12 hours, with a trial taking place to have ramps ready in four hours.

"Even if the Dart stayed at four hours' notice, if it was a sunny day and we wanted to go to Dun 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."

Damaged

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

A spokesperson for Irish Rail confirmed that the lift is 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 two lift here - it is due to be complete on August 30. Customers are advised to use Blackrock or Salthill.

"Tara Street lifts are fine, but the escalators were flood damaged and are in the process of being repaired - expected to be back on August 30 also."

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