Fined senator to meet Iarnrod Eireann about improving policies
By Mary O’connor
A Fine Gael senator who was fined for boarding a train without a ticket is to meet Iarnrod Eireann officials next week with a view to “improving policy and practice”.
Senator Fidelma Healy Eames was issued with a €100 on-the-spot fine on Thursday last after she boarded the early morning Galway to Dublin train without a ticket.
The Oranmore politician said she rushed onto the 6.50am train failing to get a ticket at Athenry station because she believed she could buy one “on board” as she had done on previous occasions.
She was approached by a representative from Iarnrod Eireann’s Revenue Protection Unit, about an hour into the journey, who asked for her ticket and identification. She produced her Seanad Eireann ID card and offered to pay for her ticket. However, she was told she could not buy one from him and was fined on the spot.
Senator Healy Eames, who is to meet the chairperson and chief executive of Iarnrod Eireann on Tuesday next at Leinster House, believes there is an “inconsistency” between the company’s policy and practice.
“In my case I had bought a ticket on board a few weeks previously as recently as June 19. Luckily, I had two counterfoil tickets on me which proved they were bought on board. On handing them to the RPU officer (Revenue Protection Unit) he confirmed they were in date and still valid monthly return but for the opposite leg of the journey (ie, Dublin-Athenry leg!).
“With the amount of publicity this issue has garnered a number of emailers have offered to be a witness to tickets being sold on board by Iarnrod Eireann (IE). The majority of comments and posts indicate that people thought, as I did, that you could purchase a ticket on board and not break the law. Thus, practice confuses and the public are fined.”
She says the reason she did not purchase a ticket at Athenry station was because on a previous morning the train had departed earlier than scheduled and she feared she would miss it if this happened again
“I had no confidence that the train would wait for me if I queued at the ticket window or vending machine as it had left up to four minutes before time in past ( I tweeted this previously). When I missed the train for this reason I brought it to the attention of the station and the reason they gave was that they were trying to make up time to get to Heuston on time! Is that not daft and unfair to passengers arriving for the scheduled time? What about loss of revenue to IE or loss of fare to passengers? And loss of business time.”
She says numerous other people missed the train leaving Athenry for this reason. She says she is “not so much concerned” about appealing the fine - she was given three weeks to pay it - any longer.
“This is now a matter of public interest. From all the mail and comment I now know that the inconsistencies in practice are widespread and have affected people all over the country.
“An English tourist, for example, visiting a friend in Portlaoise was fined on board although advised by IE staff in Portlaoise to buy a ticket on board. A lady wrote to me who rushed on board as I did. She didn’t meet a ticket seller. When she got to Connolly Station she went to buy a ticket, explained why and was fined €100 for her honesty! A young girl with a prepaid ticket got to the station earlier than expected and took an earlier train than the one booked and was fined! Thomastown station in Kilkenny is closed so it is not possible to purchase a ticket in advance. However, Heuston Station staff do not appear to understand this. We have heard the phrase, “Doctors differ and patients die”.With Iarnrod Eireann it’s a case of “Practice differs and customers are fined”.
Senator Healy Eames says she is committed to working to improve the situation for train passengers nationwide.
“A number of useful suggestions were made to me since this incident occurred and I will be passing these on to Iarnrod Eireann
“1. Pay by text like park by text. 2. Put ticket vending machines on board each train. Just pull a ticket in the ticket office on the way through to indicate where you got on (like in car park). 3. Pay more for tickets on board. 4. Iarnrod Eireann should print rules/warnings on tickets - a lost opportunity currently. 5. Place the signs re rules/fare policy beside vending machine, ticket window and in carriages. In Athenry I found out since this incident that the signs are on the platform behind your back (where you are likely never to look).”
She points out that there is a need for Iarnrod Eireann’s policies to be more customer-friendly.
“This will attract more revenue in the long run. What can be a nice travel experience shouldn’t be turned into a bad experience for people who have no desire whatsoever to break the law.”