NORTHSIDE commuter Martin O’Sullivan who suffers with vision impairment has described the stress he faces each day while travelling on trains with no or poor quality audible announcements.
Mr O’Sullivan, who lives in Blanchardstown, travels into the city centre by train each day.
However, his daily journey is fraught with the stress of having to rely on his memory and concentration as counting the stops is only way he knows when he’s reached his destination.
Mr O’Sullivan is one of hundreds of people with vision impairment who recently bombarded Irish Rail with texts to protest against what they describe as “persistently poor quality” audible announcements.
The blind community hoped the texts, which flooded the inboxes of two communications managers, would send a “loud and clear” message that they are not happy with the current situation.
According to Mr O'Sullivan, people with vision impairment don’t want to protest in such a way but have been left with little choice as they have been calling on Irish Rail to address the matter for over eight years.
”If Irish Rail can put Wi-Fi in its trains then it can’t be that much to ask for audible announcements to be installed in all trains,” he told Northside People.
“It can’t be that hard. Audible announcements are in trains in all other cities in Europe and announcements are even made on buses in London.”
Mr O’Sullivan said some trains that are fitted with audible announcements are all too often inaccurate and have poor sound quality.
“It’s completely hit and miss,” he claimed.
“I’ve learned not to rely on there being announcements and even if there is they’re usually inaccurate and out of sync with the stations that the train is stopping at.
“I have to count the stations myself which can get confusing when the train makes unscheduled stops or you lose count.”
He added: “It makes an already stressful journey even more difficult and dangerous as you can lose your bearing and get lost.”
Kerie Doyle, who is a totally blind rail user from Chapelizod, explained how she recently found herself at the mercy of another passenger’s directions, which were incorrect.
“I had a recent incident where I was put in danger by the inadvertent actions of another passenger who informed me that I was at Tara Street Station, when I was actually at Pearse Street,” she said.
“My safety was put at considerable risk due to there being no audible announcements which led me to get off the wrong station, where there was construction works taking place which could have caused me considerable injury had I taken a wrong turn or step. Bear in mind that this could have easily happened given the fact that I am totally blind.
“I feel it would be in everyone's best interests and contribute greatly to the safety and peace of mind of visually impaired passengers if Irish Rail would just get this problem sorted once and for all.”
The National Council for the Blind in Ireland (NCBI) said it too has been campaigning for the introduction of audible announcements in all Irish Rail trains.
“This needs to be done sooner rather than later,” a spokesperson told Northside People.
“Rail journeys can be stressful enough without running the risk of getting off at the wrong station and missing your stop.
“It makes it very difficult for people with vision impairment to travel independently.”
A spokesperson for Iarnród Eireann said they sympathise with the frustration that visually impaired customers feel because on-board announcements are not working correctly on all services.
“This is a matter we have been working to resolve, to address systems that have been problematic on an on-going basis,” he stated.
“Fifty-two per cent of the DART fleet had a completely new system installed between 2007 and 2009 as a result of the Transport 21 programme, and this is operating correctly.
“Iarnród Éireann has recently spent e120,000 upgrading some of the more obsolete systems on un-refurbished DART trains and this work is almost complete.
“Iarnród Éireann has tendered for a new modern replacement system for the remaining DART trains. The NTA has indicated its support for the project. It is important that any system chosen meets all of the performance criteria expected and this will take time to implement.”
The spokesman added that while Iarnród Eireann’s commuter fleet of trains that service Dublin 15 have a higher reliability than the DART fleet, they will also benefit from the new system.