Freezing carriages and racist abuse among 16,000 complaints made to Irish Rail

Freezing Carriages And Racist Abuse Among 16,000 Complaints Made To Irish Rail
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Ken Foxe

Carriages like a refrigerator, racist abuse, being forced to stand after buying first class tickets, and getting told to enjoy your journey on a packed train were among the complaints made to Irish Rail last year by customers.

The rail operator received more than 16,000 complaints in 2023 with service disruption and onboard issues making up more than half of the total.


With complaints running at an average of just over 1,300-per-month, Irish Rail also said there had been 11 complaints of racism, 521 about anti-social behaviour, and 102 made about accessibility including by people with disabilities.

A sample of customer gripes details one group of passengers who ended up stuck on a train after doors failed to open when they arrived in County Offaly.

The passenger said: “We pressed the green button, and it did not open. We then made our way to the next exit at the other end of the train, which had no green light illuminated.

“We tried pressing the button and the door would not open. The train then proceeded to depart again, [it] was stopped at Tullamore for no more than one minute. As a result, we are now on our way to Portarlington.”


Another wrote of the “irony” of being wished a pleasant journey while on a train that was “severely overcrowded”.

“There’s an empty shop on board despite the fact that there’s no catering,” they said. “I feel like the service could be a lot, lot better.”


One passenger complained about freezing temperatures on board a train travelling from the West to Dublin.

A copy of their complaint said: “Why has the heating on train been turned off in December when it is zero degrees? Dromod to Dublin train 12pm today is like sitting in a fridge. Everyone complaining of cold.”


One family booked first class travel from Dundalk to Belfast so that they could visit a Christmas market in the city.

Writing to Irish Rail, they said: “Sadly we were left with no option but to stand the whole way home. We were crammed into a tiny space outside a very bad smelling toilet.

“My son felt extremely nauseous the whole way home and I had incredible back pain from standing.”

One student wrote of being “upset and embarrassed” after being asked to show a copy of their student ID to prove they were entitled to a discount ticket.


They explained how their purse had recently been stolen and said: “I gave my ticket to an extremely rude staff member who pulled me to the side and was extremely rude and was very aggressive towards me.”

Another person wrote of a similar experience when they were asked to show their ticket and were left “extremely embarrassed”.

Their complaint said: “[Ticket inspector] started the attack asking if I had a problem, if I wasn't well, he cursed me under his breath, left and came back with the machine to check my Leap Card.

“[He] started embarrassing me and swearing practically glued to my face that I even [smelled] his bad breath. If [I] were a man or a typical Irish person I believe this wouldn't happen.”


At Kent Station in Cork, one passenger wrote about having a nasty fall on an area of slippery tiles in the station.

“I slipped down on my knee at the top of the steps,” they wrote. “I didn't think much of it until I got outside, and my tights were soaked with blood.

“Turned out I needed eight stitches, a tetanus injection, and antibiotics. The doctor thinks I must have fallen onto something sharp.”

An Irish Rail spokesperson said the most recent National Transport Agency research on customer satisfaction with public transport found that 90 per cent of rail customers expressed satisfaction with services and only 4 per cent expressed dissatisfaction.

He said: “This represents a very strong result for any service industry. Of course, any dissatisfaction is something we work to address in continuously improving our services, and we monitor and manage all customer feedback received.”

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