Dáil Éireann - Volume 501 - 09 March, 1999

Written Answers. - Public Transport.

142. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the plans, if any, she has to increase accessibility on public transport for people with physical disability, particularly those in wheelchairs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6742/99]

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke): It is and always has been my policy that transport operators, and in particular the State transport companies, should provide the highest possible degree of accessibility within the overall resources available to them. I am committed to bringing about a situation where public transport facilities are fully accessible to all at the earliest possible date.

Bus Átha Cliath currently has six low floor single decker buses in operation on the No. 3 route, Belfield to Drumcondra, and the company has given a commitment that, from now on, all single-deck buses due for renewal will be replaced by low-floor equivalents.

At my request, the company is preparing a broad programme of trials of possible low floor buses. Details are being finalised, but I expect these to include double deck; articulated; and alternative fuel buses. These trials, together with the experience of their existing low floor single deck buses and a further 20 fully accessible 33 seater midi buses which the company will purchase this year will provide the basis for decisions on the future fleet replacement programme.

Bus Éireann has a further ten low-floor vehicles on order. These vehicles are due for delivery in 1999 and will be put into service on Bus Éireann's Cork and Limerick city routes.

Considerable progress has also been made in making the railway accessible to people with disabilities. Iarnród Éireann has published an accessibility guide for passengers. Almost all of the approximately 90 mainline stations are accessible by wheelchair users. All of the newer rail passenger carriages, including the DART, are accessible by wheelchair users. In addition, the new DART stations at Drumcondra, and Clontarf Road and the upgraded Dún Laoghaire station are all fully accessible.

I am also pleased to report that each of the companies, Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, have now established user groups representative of people with disabilities. The input from these groups gives the companies very valuable assistance in their ongoing programmes of improving the suitability of their services for mobility-impaired customers.