Irish Rail has must warn customers to ‘mind the gap’

Four Courts, Dublin

27 October 2016

Irish Rail has an “absolute requirement” to warn its customers to mind gaps between trains and platforms when getting on and off trains, a Circuit Civil Court has said.

Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke made the remark after hearing a legal action by fisherman John Mooney against Irish Rail for a triple fracture he suffered on his right shoulder when he fell though the gap between the train entrance and the platform at Tara Street Station in Dublin. 

Mr Mooney told the court that on August 2, 2012, he was travelling on a commuter train from Dun Laoghaire with the intention to get off at Connolly Station in Dublin.  

He said he dismounted at Tara Street by mistake and when he realised his error, he tried to re-board the train. He had slipped and fallen through the gap, on the train tracks. 

Conor Bowman SC, counsel for Mooney, said his client suffered a triple fracture in the accident but managed to haul himself out of the gap and re-board the train.  He had reported the incident to Irish Rail staff when he got off at Connolly Station. 

Irish Rail denied liability and claimed Mooney had been distracted and had failed to look where he was going. It alleged that the CCTV footage of the incident had been destroyed because it “showed nothing.”

Mr Mooney, of St Michael’s Terrace, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, said he had needed to return home that day due to pain in his shoulder.  He had attended St Michael’s Hospital, George Street Lower in Dun Laoghaire the next day where X-rays revealed the fractures.  He said he had ongoing pain in his shoulder. 

Mr Bowman said Irish Rail accident reports showed that 11 accidents involving people falling through a gap had happened during the five years before Mr Mooney’s accident. 

He said it was extraordinary that despite the fact that Mr Mooney had reported the incident and despite the fact that there are “probably more CCTV cameras at Tara Street Station than there are at Pinewood Studios,” no CCTV footage of the incident was available. 

Counsel said that once Mr Mooney had bought his ticket, he was entitled to travel safely and that obligation had not been met by Irish Rail. 

Judge Groarke, hearing that train drivers were responsible for delivering an audio warning to ‘mind the gap,’ said he was satisfied that there had been no evidence that in this case the driver did so. 

The judge said there was a serious danger that if someone fell through the gap, the train driver might not be able to see them. 

“I recognise that Mr Mooney, having got off the train at the wrong station, may have been distracted, but that is why it is all the more important that there should be a warning to remind people to be careful of the gap.” 

He said he was satisfied Irish Rail was negligent.  Initially awarding Mr Mooney €50,000 damages, Judge Groarke said he should have been more careful and was therefore 50% liable for the accident, and reduced his award to €25,000.

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