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Wheelchair access at stations

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In the Irish Times letters page this morning a reader has complained about wheelchair access at Irish Rail stations. He mentions a few stations where the lifts are out of order preventing access to the opposite platform.

I am currently on holidays in Australia and have been using the TransPerth system fairly regularly. Here, instead of footbridges or lifts the have track level pedestrian crossings. These work in the same way as vehicle crossings, bells and lights come on as a train approaches then gates shut to prevent access onto the track. I'm going into Perth shortly and will take a picture in case my description isn't clear.

Surely this is a more cost effective way of providing wheelchair access not to mention being more reliable. The trains run every 20 minutes here in either direction with no issues. I'm thinking for stations like my own local at Dromad where trains cross in the evening or Edgeworthstown where they cross more regularly. In some cases the slope on the platforms may have to be shallower but that should be an easy task. Maybe I'm over simplifying but it just seems obvious to me

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There have been a number of serious accidents, involving passengers(including at least one involving a wheel chair) crossing the lines at suburban stations in Australia and New Zealand.

The railways in Australia and New Zealand have historically operated under a less stringent regulatory environment than Ireland and the UK with no specific requirement to fence off railways or interlocked signals at level crossings.

The crossing lights and barriers in Perth are likely to be operated automatically by the train, and unlike Ireland are not interlocked with the signalling system and remotely monitored and do not provide a fail safe if  a person in a wheelchair or mobility scooter is on the line when the barriers come down.

I am not sure how the Irish railway regulator would respond to the idea of passengers crossing the line at railway stations after over 100 years of using foot bridges. The problem with the lifts is either one of an inadequate maintenance or poor lift specification which becomes a major issue.




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As promised, some pics I took today. 

When a train is coming, between 60 and 90 seconds a bell rings and the light goes red. Then the gates close. The gates are designed so if you do get caught crossing there is a pen where you can wait safely for the train to pass. It is single track in the pictures as our local station here is an Island but there are double track ones and closer to Perth, stations where it crosses 4 tracks.

I understand peoples reluctance to have people crossing at track level. Surely though it makes sense, if operated safely, rather than building towers with lift-shafts and the maintenance that that entails. 

I can't speak for the rest of Australia or New Zealand as I haven't been (NZ is top of my list to visit) but in Perth the railway is well fenced off with 5ft fences near stations and 6ft fence topped with barbed wire away from stations.

The majority of the suburban lines in Perth are Narrow Gauge but there are standard Gauge lines the run over east and to the Port at Fremantle and Kwinana. In some places these are dual gauge and I have included a shot taken from a pedestrian crossing in Fremantle





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Crossing the tracks at Ballybrophy was accepted, when necessary, before the lift bridge arrived. I did it a few times with bulky items, by agreement. The longer southbound trains would stop with the loco on the crossing, which meant waiting until it really was clear was made even more obvious - and visibility in both directions was more than adequate.

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