Transport firms to have board members with "knowledge and experience" of disability

Shane Ross admitted progress has been "unacceptably slow"

Transport firms to have board members with "knowledge and experience" of disability

A Luas tram and a Dublin Bus on College Green in Dublin | Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

The Transport Minister Shane Ross says every transport company should have a board member who has "personal knowledge" of the needs of people with disabilities.

Addressing the Oireachtas Committee on Transport on Wednesday, Mr Ross outlined current changes underway for disabled passengers.

"In recent years progress on this issue has been made; but it has been unacceptably slow," he said.

He said accessibility features, such as wheelchair access and audiovisual aids, are built into all new public transport infrastructure projects.

Of the 143 rail stations on the Iarnród Éireann network, 84 are now accessible. Since 2007, 17 rail stations have been built to accessibility standards.

He said Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann city fleets are 100% wheelchair accessible - as is approximately 80% of the Bus Éireann coach fleet.

While on-board audio and visual 'next stop' announcements are available on all of the Dublin Bus fleet.

Transport Minister Shane Ross speaking to the media at the launch of Be Winter Ready information campaign in Agriculture House, Dublin | Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

And the upgrade of regional/rural bus and coach stops to make them accessible is being rolled out on a route by route basis, which began with Donegal.

"The list may sound impressive but it is not enough", he said.

"As a result of wide consultation with members of the disability community and with disability bodies striving to make an impact, I have decided that no public transport company in my department shall in future function without a minimum of one board member who has personal knowledge and experience of the needs and difficulties of people with disabilities using public transport", the minister said.

"Well-meaning board members offering sympathy to those with disabilities are self-evidently less able to make practical and informed decisions than those who overcome the physical obstacles daily.

"It is easy for financial experts to calculate the figures and allocate funds for more accessible buses and trains but ensuring those funds make a difference where it matters is much more challenging.

"The process to include those with raw personal experience of disability on public transport on the boards will begin today."

The National Transport Authority (NTA) will be the first to be advertised.

Minister Ross is set to appoint a new director to this board in the coming months.