Written Answers. - Access By Disabled People.

Ivan Yates

Question:

334 Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport the national level of capital investment at airports, seaports and any other commuter stations, which has been committed for the purpose of allowing greater accessibility by disabled people; the proposals the Government have to ensure that the rolling stock of trains and buses are being made more accessible to the disabled; whether EC support is available for such conversions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

An estimated £1 million is currently committed to improving accessibility to airports and railway stations and facilities therein for persons with disabilities, including persons in wheelchairs. That expenditure relates mainly to the provision of easy access for such persons at proposed new railway stations on the Dublin/Cork line between Clondalkin and the city centre, the provision of portable ramps at other railway stations to facilitate boarding of and alighting from trains and the provision of accessible toilets at main railway stations and at two regional airports which do not have them.

The proposed expenditure is additional to the very substantial capital expenditure already incurred on accessibility improvements to transport facilities in the past few years, notably in providing the new passenger terminal at Rosslare Harbour, in major refurbishing of Tara Street Station (Dublin), including the provision of escalators and lifts to enable persons with disabilities to have access to and from both platforms, the provision of portable ramps and accessible toilets at main railway stations and the provision of easy access to the four new stations provided on the Dublin/Mullingar railway line to serve Dublin suburbs. All nine airports in the State, as well as 86 out of 124 railway stations, are accessible to persons with disabilities, including persons in wheelchairs.

As regards trains and buses, Iarnród Éireann are well advanced in preparing for the adaptation of dining cars on mainline trains to accommodate persons remaining seated in their wheelchairs and both Bus Atha Cliath and Bus Éireann are committed to acquiring more accessible buses when replacing over-age buses in their fleets. Some new more accessible buses are already in service and are a significant improvement on earlier models.

EC funding has been used in the general development of transport facilities which are of benefit to persons with disabilities as well as to other users of the facilities. The new passenger terminal at Rosslare Harbour, because of its essential accessible design which secures the integration of all users, is the prime example. The scope for EC funding for experimental development of accessible transport facilities, under EC initiatives designed to enable persons with disabilities to get to work or to vocational training, is being pursued at present with the relevant EC Commission services.
It is Government policy that transport providers must, on an ongoing basis, give attention to improving accessibility to transport for persons with disabilities, as resources permit, so as to allow persons with disabilities to participate as fully as possible in community life. An Inter-Departmental Transport Accessibility Committee, chaired by the Department of Tourism and Transport, is charged with helping to establish priorities for attention and with advising transport providers as to the appropriate measures to be taken in their particular circumstances. The obvious physical, operational and safety constraints will determine the nature and pace of improvements which could reasonably be made to existing infrastructure and equipment.