Travelling solo by train, with Assisted Travel

I have a "progressive" neuromuscular disease which affects my walking (very slow) balance and general strength. I had been avoiding train travel for a number of years because of the problems of long platforms, carrying stuff etc. So when I discovered about Assisted Travel, I thought my problems would be sorted. I booked wheelchair assistance (theirs, as I don't have one) for a recent return journey from my "home" station (a biggish one well north of Edinburgh/Glasgow) for self plus luggage, to Oxford, changing at York each way.

I duly presented myself at the ticket office 20 mins before departure, and waited. About 6 mins before departure, a wheelchair arrived. The man pushing it flatly refused to pull my small wheely-case, or to let me pull it, and said he'd have to come back for it (no apology, no explanation). But time was short and I was booked in to the north end of the long train, while the lifts to the bridge are at the south end of the station, so I just heaved the case on top of the small holdall already on my lap, and held on tightly (a considerable strain on my wrists). At least luggage and I were loaded on to the train together.

On my arrival back at my "home" station, there was no sign of a wheelchair or any help, so I had to ask fellow passengers to help me disembark with my luggage. A rail employee was standing nearby, so I asked him about the wheelchair, only to be told "it's got a puncture". I assumed he must be joking, but no such luck. And again no apology. Eventually he got a luggage trolley, loaded my stuff on to it, and set off south to the lifts with me trailing slowly in his wake. He occasionally stopped for me to catch up a bit, and eventually the luggage and I (exhausted) did arrive back at the booking office. But I felt I was treated like a nuisance to be tolerated rather than a human being who needed some help.

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

There are plenty of other journeys I would like to make, including excursions to London and Cornwall, but all my rail travel will have to start and end at my "home" station. My confidence is badly eroded - in future I shall need more help, not less, and unfortunately I have nobody to travel with. I have written to Scotrail's Customer Relations, and am awaiting their reply.

Have you had experience of Assisted Travel? Is my station unique in its badness? Any advice about London (King's Cross)?

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4 Replies

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  • BOB here

    All I can suggest here is to contact the station manager or whoever is in charge of the station, if still you have problems you can complain to the gentleman or lady who is in charge of that area

    Disability still has a slur attached to it, that is now not given the attention it still deserves This government seems only to give lip service to those who have problems with access and medical conditions.

    Many feel flustrated, caused by an uncaring society, with no help from the state who makes us feel we are kidding on and are wanting a free ride.

    This problem extends towards those able bodied in society so it would seem that we are now demonized for political gain

    All the best

    BOB

  • It can be really infuriating! Just after my second hip replacement I made all the bookings - and arrived at Meldreth - to find that I had been given assurance of help at an UNMANNED station!

    Why are the seats in the 'disabled' section of the trains much thinner and harder than normal ones? We are only anatomically 'padded' in the same way as everyone else!

    Ann

  • What a terrible experience to endure. I am terrified of traveling by public transport just because of this sort of treatment. The only long journey I have made in my wheelchair on public transport was with National Express who went out of their way to reserve us front row seats and make sure all our connecting coaches had a wheelchair lift on. At Victoria coach station they have a disabled lounge where a porter comes to collect you and takes you to the coach before everyone else is boarded. It is not a journey I would repeat by choice just because of the length of the journey however I can not complain about the service.

    nutty

  • Thank you very much for your replies.

    How on earth did you cope at that unmanned station when you tried to embark/disembark from the train, Ann ?

    I am really concerned that you feel so reluctant to use publc transport now, Nutty. I do go by coach for "manageable" distances ( though I haven't discovered a satisfactory way of coping with the disorganised "queue" system), but gave up my overnight ten-hour trips to London a few years ago when I was a lot more mobile, as it was just too exhausting.

    I really don't want to be beaten by something which simply ought not to be a problem.

    The other day I heard from an acquaintance who's a professional carer that my "home" station has a particularly bad reputation.

    Of course I'm still waiting for some response from Scotrail's Customer Relations.

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