Iarnród Éireann’s plan to introduce more unmanned stations could seriously impact elderly passengers.
At least four rail stations in Cork and Kerry are being targeted as the company held talks with station masters from around the country yesterday in a bid to create more unmanned stations on its network.
The company’s corporate communication spokesman, Barry Kenny, declined to say which stations were being earmarked but it is understood about 37 are being examined countrywide.
Cork County Council has sought clarification after councillor Ian Doyle said he feared that Charleville, Banteer, and Millstreet would be hit in Co Cork and Rathmore in Kerry.
“Elderly people will suffer because of this,” said Mr Doyle.
“Not everybody is internet-friendly. Even automated ticketing machines can be problematic for older people.”
Mr Kenny said it was hoped to deploy staff from stations to customer service on trains.
“With the availability of online booking, ticket vending machines for all customer — taxsaver commuter tickets, Leap Cards for example — customers are changing the way they engage with us,” he said, adding that 83% of all train tickets were now acquired through ticket vending machines, online booking, Leapcards, and Epurse products.
“Customers will still want and require customer service assistance, particularly onboard longer-distance services where many trains are currently driver-only,” he said.
Mr Kenny said staff redeployed from stations will be able to provide improved assistance for mobility-impaired customers, ensure seat reservations are observed, deal with onboard anti-social behaviour, and provide information during service disruptions, which would include arranging connections and transfers.
He hoped a new onboard service would be launched this summer but was unable to give a timeframe in relation to unmanned stations.
The company is also planning to launch new website facilities to allow customers opt for ticket types offering a range of flexibility and to manage bookings online.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved