Disability, My Life, Travel

Disability Education – Cross-Country Trains

Ignorance and unacceptable attitudes of taxis drivers, extends into the cross-country train service and their customers.

Having travelled to and from Southampton several times for university, I have realised there are a few problems with the Cross-Country train service. The first issue I noticed was with the assisted travel service at the stations. 

Those who are disabled or have injuries use it when boarding the train. As instructed I call the assisted travel service 24 – hours prior to our journey and give them the necessary details they need to know ahead of my journey, my name, my disability, and where I’m travelling from and to and at what time – so they are prepared for when we arrive the next day. 

Many times we have been put on hold for ages, trying to get through to book the assistance but my parents and I wanted to make sure we got through and the service was booked for the next day. 

On arriving at the station and reporting to assisted travel to check in, I sometimes get told by the people behind the desk that they have no record of my booking. Though I do phone the assisted travel and our booking is confirmed over the phone and we can prove this, it doesn’t appear on their systems. 

As the train journeys were so important and I am sure to book the assisted travel, it causes me to question the efficiency of the assisted travel service at Birmingham New Street. 

Once they have booked our assisted travel, they tell me to go and wait on the platform, assuring me that a member of assisted travel will be there in time to help me on the train when it arrives. I do so and wait, but though I go down there in plenty of time to make sure I board the train in time for its departure, there are times that there is a delay of the assisted travel coming down to the platform and this causes me to get anxious – especially when the time of the train approaches and arrives in the station. 

I watch as the train sits on the platform and people board, but looking around, I don’t see anyone on assisted travel coming down to help me get on the train. The longer I wait on the platform, the more apprehensive I get, especially if I travel alone. I like to get on the train and settled in time for departure and to many times on my journeys to Southampton, I have experienced getting on the train with limited time to get settled and I find I can’t maneuver my chair correctly into the designated space as I’m panicking about the time. 

This matter needs addressing as those with disabilities rely on assisted travel to be able to travel independently and we won’t be able to if the assisted travel services aren’t sufficient.     

While on the train, I struggle to find a place for my chair while I am travelling as the designated wheelchair space is taken by fellow travellers or by luggage deposited in the space. I have boarded Cross-Country Trains many times to travel to Southampton Solent University and the trains I have boarded have stopped in Southampton then gone onto their final destination, Bournemouth. 

As the majority of travellers are going to Bournemouth for a holiday and as the baggage areas are restricted in each carriage, the luggage which doesn’t fit in the baggage spaces goes into the designated wheelchair space. This has been difficult as when I board this particular trains, I am heading to university and am travelling alone and instead of my parents getting me settled, they have to spend the limited time before the train departs to move the luggage out of the disabled space. When we asked people to move their luggage from this space, they have refused or ignored us, not moving from their seats. 

So in limited time, my parents have to move the luggage and get me in the space, helping me get into the space and passing me the things I need for the journey, all before getting off the train. 

This increases my anxieties about travelling alone and my stress levels as I get panicky about the restricted amount of time and I don’t like to be rushed. It seems the custumers can’t understand the disabled space particularly for those in wheelchairs or with similar disabilities, other travellers can put their luggage elsewhere and take a seat anywhere else or if the train is busy then they can stand. 

Surely this needs to be considered and customers and the train service needs to take responsibility, this space is surely wheelchair users and those with disabilities to use by law, isn’t it? 

The most memorable time for these difficulties when my mom and I were travelling from Birmingham New Street to Southampton Central on a CrossCountry train and my fellow travellers were very rude as they refused to move their luggage out of the disabled space. We found they were very rude and inconsistent, giving us clueless looks and gormlessly asking why. No common sense what so ever. 

Poor mom had to move all the luggage herself while getting glares from other passengers. To make matters even worse, a man who was sitting in a normal seat had a manual chair which was in the disabled space and when mom moved it so I could get in, he was very rude and adopted and bossy tone and ordered my mom to put it back with no regard to me struggling to use the space! 

Then to put the cherry on top of some of my chaotic Cross-Country Train journeys, when I get to my stop, I find no one is there to help me get off the train. As well as helping us on the train, assisted travel  have the responsibility of calling through to the customer’s destination and informing the station that someone is coming in that is in need assistance in getting off the train. From my experience, the phone call doesn’t always go through to my distinction and as a result they are not notified that I’m coming and they need to help me off the train. 

This causes another anxiety as a train doesn’t stop at one destination for a long amount of time as it is going on the further destinations and I worry that someone won’t get to me on time before the train departs and goes onto the next station. This is another matter that needs addressing, disabled people need only a little bit of help to make their journey an enjoyable experience. 

3 thoughts on “Disability Education – Cross-Country Trains”

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