Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle: Transport infrastructure must not leave anyone behind

Pringle: Transport infrastructure must not leave anyone behind

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said Government must invest in an inclusive and accessible transport infrastructure that leaves no one behind, as he supported a motion on transport support schemes for people with disabilities.

Addressing the Dáil on Thursday, Deputy Pringle said: “I fully support this motion, particularly its calls for the Department to develop a plan, in consultation with people with disabilities, disabled persons’ organisations and disability service providers, that provides equitable access to transport for those with disabilities.”

The deputy said: “Our approach to disability must be rooted in a human rights approach. This includes recognising the independence and autonomy that transport provides in allowing disabled people to live fully as vital members of our community.”

He welcomed advances in accessible DART trains, and called for them to be rolled out more quickly and across all train lines.  He said Irish Rail must also ensure staff are available at stations to support people with physical disabilities, and ensure that lifts are working and ramps are available. Space must be allocated on trains for people with physical disabilities, he said.

Deputy Pringle said: “While I am pleased we are hoping to make a start in rolling out accessible trains, we also need to work immediately to ensure that the service as a whole is accessible and fit for purpose for all of us.”

The deputy spoke in support of the Regional Group motion re Transport Support Schemes for People with Disabilities.

He supported a number of initiatives, including calling on Government to commit funding for a nationwide network of accessible coach stops.

Deputy Pringle said: “I would also like to call on the government to ensure that all buses, including city buses, are accessible to people with disabilities, beyond the current capacity of one wheelchair at any given time. You have to admit that the current provision is totally inadequate.”

He said taxi service providers should be encouraged to operate as accessibly as possible. The deputy suggested applying extra weighting to taxi operators with accessible vehicles in tender processes when awarding State contracts, or making an accessible taxi a requirement for a State contract.

The deputy also supported the motion’s call for the Government to reinstate the Motorised Transport Grant and Mobility Allowance, an issue he has raised before. He said: “In places like Donegal this is the only transport option that’s available for many disabled people, and that is a real problem.

“Both of these schemes are crucial to the disabled population, particularly at a time when our public transport system and infrastructure are not fully accessible. Disabled people rely on taxis, especially those who live in the many rural parts of our country and in my constituency of Donegal,” he said, adding the grants went some of the way to cover the costs or help people buy an adaptive car.

Deputy Pringle said: “Transport costs add yet another extra living cost for people with disabilities, one that many are not in the position to afford.

“Inaccessible transport severely affects the quality of life for many with disabilities and the lack of action by the Government is disgraceful. We should be investing in an inclusive transport infrastructure that doesn’t leave people behind and that supports accessibility for our disabled population, particularly those in rural Ireland, who have very limited accessibility as it is.”