Travelling solo by train with Assisted Travel

I asked a while ago if anyone could tell me about Assisted Travel on trains. Perhaps the lack of response was because you'd had a bad experience and didn't want to frighten me..................? Anyway, I'm back from my trip from Scotland (biggish station well north of Edinburgh and Glasgow) to Oxford and back, via York.

It was my first excursion by train for some years, as I had been increasingly worried about long platforms, carrying stuff, changing trains, etc.This time I admitted I'd need to ask for help, and booked Assisted Travel for self and luggage, requesting a station wheelchair, as I don't have one.

So I duly presented myself at the ticket office 20 mins before departure and waited. About 6 mins before my train was due, the wheelchair appeared, but the man pushing it flatly refused to pull my small wheely-case as well as pushing me (I am not particularly heavy) - and he wouldn't let me pull it either. He insisted he'd have to come back for it. But as I was booked in to the north end of the train, and the lifts to the bridge are at the south end of the very long platforms, there wouldn't be enough time. So I hastily heaved the case on top of the small holdall on my lap and clung on to it (extremely hard on the wrists), but at least luggage and I were safely loaded onto the train together.

On my return a few days later to my "home" station, there was no sign of any assistance, so I had to ask kindly fellow passengers for help to get the luggage and me down to the platform. I asked a nearby member of station staff about the wheelchair, and he just said "It's got a puncture" . I thought he was joking, but no such luck. And no apology either. He did go and get a luggage trolley and at least he pushed that, while I followed extremely slowly in his wake down the full length of the station to the lifts and back up to the ticket office. He did stop occasionally for me to catch up, but I was made to feel I was a nuisance to be tolerated.

There were no problems at Oxford, and the staff at York were exemplary.

But my future journeys will all have to start and end at my "home" station, and I can only see myself becoming more dependent on help, not less. I have written to Scotrail's Customer Relations, and will see what happens. My confidence has been eroded.

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4 Replies

  • I'm sorry you had such a difficult time. It's tress full enough trying to catch trains itch out having to rely on a bad service, and feeling you're a nuisance. I find that if I get no response on a forum, post on the pain concern one too as people are quick to respond there and it's much busier. People with a variety of conditions will have similar needs and experiences. I hope you get a favourable response from the rail company.

  • Thank you very much for your sympathetic reply and advice, Rowantree. Yes, I did get three responses from the Pain Concern people, and it looks as though Assisted Travel is a very hit-or miss business. Of course, it ought to be reliable and dependable, as those who book it do so because they need it.

    After a whole month of silence from Scotrail's Customer Relations, I rang the Assisted Travel number and spoke to a charming person. He explained that they were way behind with their correspondence, because of among other problems ....... LIGHTNING during the summer months !

    But he did assure me my letter had been received, and agreed that it certainly made points that needed to be answered. They would definitely answer it , and he would endeavour to move it up a bit in the pile in the in-tray.

    That was a fortnight ago.

  • Well I did get a letter with an apology from the train company - after nearly 2 months. Plus a £5 voucher as compensation - not for my travel experiences, but for their late reply!

    I must say their letter hardly fills me with confidence to rush into attempting another train journey.

    This company's staff can't wheel luggage and a passenger simultaneously as they need both hands (health and safety) to push the wheelchair. [so why not explain, and give me a helping hand to lift the case on to my knee?]

    The staff know train times and how long it takes to get to the platform [so why leave only 6 mins for taking passenger and luggage separately?] They do have other duties to perform [ that's obvious - on my outward journey they were wheelchairing another person from a train before mine]

    The station has 2 wheelchairs, one of which."has a faulty wheel" [ was still awaiting repair after many weeks !], and on my return, someone else was booked to be wheelchaired just before me, so I lost out.[ No excuse for failing to help me off the train, or explain things politely]

    There was no answer to my query about what happens if I miss my train due to station staff''s "other duties" taking priority over helping me.

    They did apologise for my "inconvenience", but I think that vastly underestimates the stress of making a long journey alone and having to depend on other people - especially when the journey begins with a bad experience.

  • Another year, another train journey - and a much better experience, thank goodness !

    This time I travelled alone from my "home" station well north of Edinburgh to Truro (a 12 hour train journey) and back via a couple of days in Taunton, changing at Edinburgh Waverley each time. My mobility is quite a lot worse than it was for last year's Oxford journey, and I had 2 elbow crutches (instead of one walking pole) with me as well as my luggage. All the station staff who wheelchaired me to and from the trains, loaded my luggage on/off and helped me to my seat were cheerful and courteous. Those who were working to health-and safety rules, and weren't meant to wheel my case as well as me, at least helped me put my case on my lap, or let me pull it along - and seemed glad I was prepared to take it.

    Things that need to be double-checked when booking a seat for another long journey :

    1 The seat must be at a table and not the "airline" type. I absolutely need to lean on the table to get up.

    2 The seat must be in the same carriage as a loo. It is really horrible trying to traverse the flexible wobbly section between carriages, and there's nothing to hold on to.

    3 The seat must not be too far from the luggage rack ( on one section of the journey it was near the door right at the other end of the carriage)

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