Belfast Telegraph

Funding for transport training centre for people with disabilities

The Dublin Rathdown TD claimed the centre will be ‘world’s largest and most extensive training centres’ once completed.

Transport Minister Shane Ross (Brian Lawless/PA)
Transport Minister Shane Ross (Brian Lawless/PA)

People with disabilities will have access to a new national transport training centre next year to help them to confidently and independently use public transport, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Transport Minster Shane Ross announced funding for the centre at the Transport Committee on Wednesday where he updated members on the accessibility of public transport for people with disabilities.

“This will be a state of the art indoor accessible transport training centre which will empower people with access needs when preparing for and during their journey using public transport,” Mr Ross said.

The Dublin Rathdown TD claimed the centre will be “world’s largest and most extensive training centres” once completed.

“I hope this state-of-the-art centre will give confidence to those who might otherwise hesitate before using their local bus, train or tram,” he added.

The National Council for the Blind Ireland developed the proposals for the centre.

Its primary aim is to provide short term comprehensive instruction designed to teach people with disabilities how to travel safely and independently using public transportation.

It will include full size replicas of bus, train and tram vehicles that will be used to familiarise users with how to safely and confidently use these modes on a day-to-day basis.

The location of the centre will be announced by the end of July and it is expected construction works will be completed next year.

Mr Ross told committee members that progress was being made to improve accessibility issues, but he admitted it was “difficult”.

He said that funding through the National Transport Authority (NTA) for the retro-fit programme to address infrastructural legacy issues had been trebled between 2018 and 2021 to 28 million euro.

It is being spent on trains stations, bus stops in rural areas and wheelchair taxis.

He said much of the funding was being allocated to the rail network as it dated from the 19th century and a large number of platforms were not accessible to people with disabilities.

“They are utterly and totally Victorian some of them and they certainly need a fair amount of money being spent on them,” he said.

Sinn Fein TD Imelda Munster questioned the minister over whether progress had been made to reduce the need for people to have to call ahead and give prior notice of their wish to travel.

The Louth TD described it was one of the “key frustrations” cited by those affected by accessibility issues when the committee heard their concerns.

“They felt like they were being discriminated against,” she said.

Mr Ross replied: “It is not satisfactory yet but it has made a fair amount of improvement.

“The NTA is introducing new low-floor coaches on regional commuter buses beginning this year that will facilitate wheelchair access onto these services without pre-booking after sufficient fleet has been introduced into the service. There is progress being made.”

He also cited improvements such as the advance notice requirement for Dart and Northern line services being reduced from 24 hours to four hours.

He added that 50% of the Dublin Bus fleet now had a space for both a wheelchair user and a buggy and this figure would rise to 100% as the fleet was replaced.

But Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy said the improved accessibility, which she welcomed, had created a situation where at times there was not enough space to accommodate demand from users with disability.

“I get repeated complaints by people who are told that that space is being used so you’ll have to wait for the next bus,” she said.

“The success invites people on and at the same time but they may not be provided for to the extent that might be needed.”

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