MERRY Christmas it says on the glass window of the ticket office at Clara railway station but it was far from being merry for some passengers who arrived at the facility only to be greeted with padlocked gates and no means of getting in or out of the station over the festive period, the Tribune has learned.
On one such occasion two passengers alighted from the train to find the station was completely locked and unmanned with no means of getting out. The pair were left with no option but to climb a wall linking the station with the car park.
A woman found herself in a similar predicament when she went to the station to catch the Galway train. On her arrival she discovered the gates were locked and ended up having to squeeze through a gap in some nearby bushes. A bemused on-looker who was in the area at the time stated that it was “like a scene from a wild-west-movie jumping through bushes to board the train and no facilities available in the station”.
Meanwhile a young woman who wanted to disembark from the train at Clara had to continue to Athlone as she could not exit the station. Iarnrod Eireann organised a taxi to return her to Clara but she arrived an hour later than expected. The additional journey also meant that a relative waiting to meet her in Clara was left hanging around for an hour outside the locked station. Clara station has been unmanned for the last number of months which has angered commuters and local people. It has also caused difficulties for people with disabilities or other health related issues.
A local who wishes to remain anonymous told the Tribune that recently “a young autistic man, who claims local staff knew when he was travelling and looked out for him, found himself stuck on the train. He claims the train door would not open for him to alight and by the time he made his way to the next door further along the carriage the train was pulling out of the station. The young man ended up travelling to the next station. His father was on the platform but states that by the time he realised the doors were closing and his son was not getting off there was no staff available to alert as there was no-one in the station and the staff on the train were already moving. The man ended up driving to the neighbouring station to collect his son. He claims that when he raised the issue with staff they questioned if it was suitable for the young man to travel alone. ‘My son has travelled alone on the train for years, with just a little help at the station required’, he said. He added that surely Iarnrod Eireann should be encouraging people with disabilities, not questioning their abilities.”
In addition the passenger waiting room was sometimes locked over the Christmas period leaving people with no shelter while awaiting trains or taxis. More importantly the toilets are located in the waiting room. It is believed that the waiting room and ticket office were locked following anti-social behaviour since the station became unmanned. It is understood that on one occasion gardai were called to deal with unruly behaviour by teenagers which caused great concern and unease to a group of elderly people waiting for a train.
Passengers using Clara railway station are calling for staff to be reintroduced at the busy facility. Over 20 trains stop at the station daily. In order to board the train, passengers must pre-book their tickets or purchase them from a machine outside the station. If this is not possible passengers can purchase their tickets on the train. Hundreds of commuters use the facility daily.
We contacted Iarnrod Eireann for comment and while they did respond a spokesperson said it would be very difficult to comment without the exact dates of the incidents. Up to the time of going to press they had made no further response.