I try not to get too ratty about access issues. There are so many, I could end up perpetually grumpy! And that wouldn't be good.....
But this week, I found out that if one lift happens to break when I need to travel by train - it could cause chaos because of a change in policy. This might get a bit complicated - but please bear with me......
On Thursday, Steve was informed by platform staff at Leicester station that East Midland trains have changed their policy on what they do with wheelchair users in the event of lift failure. This lift failure problem is something that happens every so often and can’t be helped.
For as long as I can remember - when the lift failed, I would be safely escorted across the tracks to the side where the lift was working. A perfect solution for someone who needs to use wheels. But now - for health and safety reasons, this will no longer happen. So what does that mean to me?
For going TO London:
Well, it means I won't be able to go.
They say they will taxi me to the next accessible station - Market Harborough.
But that won't work.
Why? According to their website, to access the southbound platform - wheelchair users have to be escorted across the tracks. But wait - they can't do that anymore! So that won't happen!
To take me to the next one after that would take longer than the original train journey.
The only workable solution is going north to Loughborough to come south again, adding at least an hour onto my journey if done by taxi….By which time I’ve missed the start and most of my meeting. And means an extra 30 - 40 minutes if done by train - meaning I’ve missed my cheaper-because-it’s-pre-booked taxi.
To come back - If they know in time, it means getting off at Market Harborough and being put in a taxi ….if they can find one that is power-chair accessible, adding at least 45 mins to my journey - or more due to it being rush hour. If they don't do that, it means staying on the train to the next accessible station which will be Loughborough if I’m lucky, or with the fast train - Derby. Then I have to get off and then get on the next train back to Leicester, and to the platform that is still accessible.
I’m already limited in the trains I can catch when using my main wheelchair as it won’t fit on the cheaper “HST” type trains, so I have to get the the more expensive “Meridian” trains.
During peak times there are a lot of HST’s, so my choice is even more limited, therefore my first preference would be the one that goes 3 minutes to the hour (Fast train: London - Leicester - Derby) or the one that is 30 minutes past the hour (Slower train: as well as others, it stops at Market Harborough, Leicester then Loughborough)
Once again, I am a health and safety risk and not a person. Wonderful!
Taking me across the tracks has always been done safely with plenty of time to spare, and the full knowledge and assistance of central control. I have never heard of any injury or death as a result.
I have noticed they are using more temporary staff for assistance purposes now (You can tell….) and I think this may be the main reason. But I may be wrong.
I don't go to London for fun - It’s work. I need to get there and expect that basic right like any other person needing to travel for work.
Using a wheelchair is hard enough East Midland Trains. In the event of a broken lift - you’ve just made it a whole lot harder.