Commuter safety at risk as fainting spate hits crowded, creaking trains
ON THE POINT OF COLLAPSE: Left, Leanne Kerr, who takes a fold-up chair on the northbound train to Drogheda to prevent herself from suffering another fainting episode. Right, Jessica Reilly, a passenger on the same train, finds nowhere to sit but the floor. Below, the notorious Dublin-Dundalk line is particularly vulnerable to overcrowding. Photos: Tony Gavin and Richard Stokes
OVERCROWDING on commuter trains has led to a spate of passengers fainting from lack of oxygen, and a GP working near one Dublin train corridor has slammed our "creaking" train system.
Dr James Reilly says he is seeing an increasing number of patients who attend his clinic in Lusk, Co Dublin, after passing out on board packed commuter lines. Dr Reilly, the former head of the Irish Medical Organisation, said the phenomenon was a direct result of the "creaking" publictransport system, which is so inadequate that most trains are packed after just a few stops.
Dr Reilly told the Sunday Independent: "Pregnant women, elderly people and children make up the bulk of those who have fainted, but it could happen to any one of those crammed onto an overcrowded train.
"People are fainting because they can't breathe or because of a sudden drop in blood pressure because they are standing so long.
"A number of people have attended my surgery after they lost consciousness on a packed train."
He said many of them were on the same train - the Dublin to Dundalk line - which has become notorious amongst commuters.
Dr Reilly, the former IMO president, is standing for Fine Gael in Dublin North in the next general election.
The two most affected trains on this line are the 07.50 weekday morning service citybound from Dundalk, and the 17.50 service outbound in the evenings.
Those who take the line every day say it is constantly overcrowded, with large volumes of people pushing onto already full trains and often hurling abuse at others in their determination toget on.
Last Thursday, the peak-time evening train to Dundalk was no exception. After leaving from Pearse Station, it was full by the time it reached Connolly, when hundreds more travellers piled on.
All passengers stood shoulder to shoulder and many had problems making their way down the packed carriage to get off at their stop.
A sign warning people not to sit on the floors and not to bring their own portable seating was being widely ignored by exhausted commuters.
Leanne Kerr was one of those who had taken her own fold-up chair. Having fainted on the train herself on a previous occasion, she felt she had to do so for her own safety.
Leanne, from Laytown, Co Meath, said: "It was a winter's night, so I got on the train with my coat on. With so many people on board it was really hot, but I didn't have space to remove my coat.
"I started to feel faint and I passed out and smacked my head off a metal bar. Then I came to and passed out again. It was very frightening and it would not have happened if there had not been such a high volume of people on the train."
The 26-year-old credit controller takes the train every day and says she finds the journey unbearable. "I try to find some place to stand inthe corridor, where it isless crowded, but that can be difficult."
Jessica Reilly also depends on the service to get to and from work and says she can never get a seat.
"Everyone is pushing and shoving to get on and shouting at people to move up the train. You can feel other passengers' breath on your face. It's disgusting, and I can see how a person could faint in such conditions."
Fine Gael Transport spokesperson Olivia Mitchell said she too had heard cases of passengers fainting on trains.
"I believe that this particular train is especially unbearable, you can't move on it," she said.
"The fact that fainting onboard has become a medical phenomenon just goes to show how critical the issue of overcrowding is."
A comprehensive, high-capacity train system for the city is the only solution to the transport problem, according to Deputy Mitchell.
"Dublin is far behind when it comes to a decent public transport system. It is time for an underground system like the New York subway or the Paris metro.
"With such a hugely growing commuter population, demand outstrips supply year on year. A fully linked-up rail service is the only way to solve the problem."
Iarnrod Eireann spokesperson Cliodhna Ni Fhatharta said overcrowding is an unfortunate reality of peak-time rail travel.
"Passengers have to stand on crowded trains all over the world and that is because trains are a safe, fast and reliable way to travel.
"We have lengthened train carriages, extended platforms and put on more trains, but it is still not enough."
Ms Ni Fhatharta claimed there was no danger involved in travelling while standing on a packed train.
"There is no evidence to prove that you are more at risk from injury when standing than when seated," she said.
Iarnrod Eireann hopes their new Interconnector service will go some way to easing the congestion.
The Interconnector is an 5.2km underground Dart line which will go from the Docklands to Heuston Station.
Two other Dart lines have been proposed for Balbriggan to Hazelhatch and Maynooth to Bray
© Sunday Independent 2006http://www.unison.ie/irish_independe...issue_id=14075