Join Date: Dec 2008
Travelling with dogs on Mark 4 trains
Here is the main part of my letter to IR Southern and Western management after what happened when travelling with my dogs recently.
On Saturday 27th August I made a day return trip from Heuston to Templemore with my two golden retrievers. I bought the tickets for myself and the dogs at the booking office, and then I presented myself at the ticket barrier, with the dogs and the folded cage, for the 11.00 to Cork. The man at the barrier said I wouldn’t be allowed on board. I said that the train had a van, and this was one route where dogs were definitely allowed to travel. He said the train had no van. I pointed to the Mark 4 train, which was clearly visible at platform 5. But he was adamant: “The train has no van, and hasn’t had one for years.” He got on the phone to someone else, who said the same thing.
I went to customer services (dogs and folded cage in tow); there I was told that dogs should be allowed on this train. I said I needed someone to convey this information to the man at the barrier. Fortunately there was someone available, and he told the man at the barrier, who then let me through.
Fortunately, the rest of the day went well, and all the other staff were helpful. They helped me with the cage, and showed me what to do about opening the doors, as this was my first time bringing the dogs on a Mark 4 train.
My complaint is that I was put to a lot a hassle, with time running short, all because a staff member was wrong about the rules. I also wonder who was at the other end of phone line, apparently agreeing with the man on the gate that dogs weren’t allowed.
I was availing of the €20 return fare for summer Saturdays, but I also bought tickets for the dogs. So the company was earning revenue by transporting us. Now the question is: WAS I A VALUED CUSTOMER? Or was I just a nuisance that the company could do without? If you count up the revenue that IR has earned from myself and my wife from travelling with dogs over the last 13 years (our tickets plus the dogs’ tickets), you would reckon that this is business worth holding on to.
Everyone from management to staff on the ground should bear in mind that Ireland has an extremely restrictive régime for carrying dogs, by European standards. So the message should be: if there is any doubt, the customers should be allowed on board. I have recently returned from travelling around Britain with the two dogs, and there was never any restriction. The dogs just sit on the floor beside me, on their leads. This is also European practice (with variations). Whole families travel with their dogs; if this weren’t allowed, these families would probably all go by car, with the subsequent loss of revenue – and companies know that. Passengers with dogs are treated as part of their customer base. The companies must know that there are risks; presumably they have a sense of proportion and know that the vast majority of dog journeys are free from incidents.
Then I came home to Ireland, wanting to travel on one of the two remaining routes where dogs are allowed on a fully above-board basis. I met all IR’s conditions – and still I met with hassle.
Tourism columns in the newspapers are beginning to feature holidays with dogs. More people will be comparing Irish practice with that of other countries, and asking – why? Pressure will come on transport operators to facilitate passengers with dogs. Remember what happened with the conveyance of bicycles?
In times of recession IR cannot afford to turn away customers who are bringing in money, often on the less busy trains, and not causing any nuisance. The message to dog-owners should be unequivocally: “We value your custom, and we will facilitate you in any way possible.”
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