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Don’t Mess With a Disabled Commuter

Being a commuter is never easy or enjoyable, but when you’re a wheelchair user and the train has no wheelchair space, it adds insult to injury.

I commuted from Cambridge to London for three yeas while I was doing my law degree and I cannot tell you how many times I was forced to sit in the vestibule because there was no designated wheelchair space. (Put it this way, enough times that I had to learn the word vestibule!) When this happens, I sit in the draughty space between the two sets of doors and as both sides open, I have to manoeuvre from side to side to let passengers on and off the train. Sometimes I was told it was because I was travelling on an “old” train and they didn’t have a wheelchair space – I guess the thought that people in wheelchairs might have need to travel never crossed anyone’s mind. I’d been told many times that these trains are being phased out so this would hopefully stop being a problem. This didn’t make the journeys without a wheelchair space any more bearable, but it did give me a sense that the train company realised this was an issue and that they had an intention to fix it, so I never made a formal complaint and never spoke out about it on social media.

This has now changed.

Last week, I was on a refurbished Abellio Greater Anglia train with no wheelchair space and so I once again found myself in the vestibule. There was new carpet, new paint and new seat covers but no space where I could park and be safe for the journey from London to Cambridge.

I had finally had enough. Maybe I was inspired by Paralympian Anne Wafula-Strike not to let the train company give me a pathetic excuse as to why I did not receive the same service as non-disabled passengers when I too was paying full price, and maybe this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. I took a picture from where I was and tweeted it to Abellio Greater Anglia.

It was only after Transport for All retweeted it that the company got back to me and tried to tell me my service could have been a result of an earlier train fault. That didn’t make much sense to me as even if there was a problem, they were still putting a train with no wheelchair space into service.

I have since made a formal complaint and have informed Abellio Greater Anglia that I will now be issuing a complaint every time I am put in this unacceptable situation and I encourage anyone reading this to do the same. There is no reason that in 2017 there are still trains without proper facilities for wheelchair users. We work, we travel and we commute just like everyone else and yet we are constantly treated with disrespect and our needs are almost never given priority. I don’t want to file a complaint every time there isn’t a wheelchair space and I don’t want a refund as compensation – I want equal access and facilities and until I get this I will no longer be silent.

By Emma Vogelmann

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P.S.: Click here for main image credit.

One Comment

  1. Damn right. I agree with you 100%. Rights Now.
    I wonder if you booked assistance. We shouldn’t have to and it’s unacceptable to have trains without wheelchair spaces irrespective of booking, but I find it even more unacceptable if a train operating company has an assistance booking on a train and they remove the only wheelchair space or accessible toilet without even warning the person who had booked assistance. I often wonder why they ask for contact details when taking an assistance booking, because they never contact me to warn me they’ve removed the wheelchair space or accessible toilet.
    All trains are supposed to be accessible by 1stc January 2020, under the catchily-titled European Union People of Restricted Mobility: Technical Standards for Interoperability. (Aside: “People of Restricted Mobility includes pushchair users in the EU… Also hopefully this legislation will survive Brexit because it actually just reflects the previous UK law Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations. Anyway.) However DPTAC have been approving an extraordinary raft of applications from rolling stock companies for exemption of their existing stock from this, that and the other requirement of the EU PRM:TSI. I have no idea why this unaccountable and unrepresentative group is being allowed such powers. Come 20 2020, even where the vehicles are fully accessible, it wouldn’t surprise me if such incidents of carriages with wheelchair facilities being removed are still common.
    All power to your elbow,

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