Longford disability advocate hits out at Bus Éireann following nightmare journey

Frustrated James Cawley forks out €200 to get home from holiday in Ballina

Jessica Thompson

Reporter:

Jessica Thompson

Email:

jessica.thompson@longfordleader.ie

Longford disability advocate hits out at Bus Éireann following nightmare journey

James Cawley pictured in front of a Bus Éireann vehicle this weekend.

The bank holiday weekend has been needlessly stressful for local man and disability advocate, James Cawley, who has found himself struggling to get home from Ballina.

Mr Cawley is a wheelchair user and spent the weekend in Ballina on a family holiday.

However, when it came to booking his passage home, he ran into some trouble with Bus Éireann.

Despite having booked his journey two days in advance, Mr Cawley found it difficult to secure a place on a bus home to Longford.

He took to Twitter to raise awareness of the difficulties disabled passengers face when trying to book a place on a bus.

Bus Éireann responded to his tweet stating that "due to operational constraints, bookings for weekend and Monday travel must be made no later than 3pm on the Friday beforehand.

What followed was a conversation thread in which Mr Cawley requested that Bus Éireann point him to where in their policy this is stated.

"This reservation system is common practice across other EU countries," Bus Éireann responded.

However, Mr Cawley pointed out, the policy itself states bookings should be made 24 hours in advance.

"I'm only trying to organise a way home rather than having to travel six hours and incur a taxi journey of €200.

Following his frustrations with Bus Éireann, Mr Cawley took to Twitter to raise awareness of this "terrible practice that needs changing" and the issues disabled passengers come up against when trying to make travel arrangements.

And he certainly received some support, with other Twitter-users expressing their disgust.

Mr Cawley did make his way home today, but not without adding an additional four hours to his journey time - not to mention the extra €200 spent on taxis alone. And, earlier this evening he penned an open letter to Bus Éireann and Minister for Transport Shane Ross.

When contacted, Bus Éireann made the following statement:

“Wheelchair accessible bookings are made via a helpline number and this is clearly stated on Bus Éireann’s website. This notice was not provided to us via the customer care helpline in this case, so therefore the booking could not be processed.

"Route 22 Dublin to Ballina is also not a designated accessible route. These calls allow us to ensure a wheelchair place is available, and to prepare our coaches for a wheelchair user, so the chair can be secured safely into place. The operation of the wheelchair lift also needs to be checked.

"We require 24 hour notice of travel for this, on accessible inter-city routes. All of Bus Éireann’s city and town services are fully accessible, and a list of inter-city accessible routes can be found at www.buseirean.ie/accessibility.”