End of the Line - Evidence
Stats in the area
In two thirds of journeys made in the North West the Trailblazers found some problem with the accessible facilities at the station, on the vehicle or with staff members' lack of disability awareness training.
Jessica Berry -Macclesfield
The main form of public transport I use is trains, with the main problem for me being the lack of independence. Yes, train companies will claim they have made most of their facilities 'wheelchair accessible', which in all fairness they have, but does this matter if you can't access them on your own and you are constantly relying on somebody else?
For example, when arranging a journey you are required to ring and reserve your wheelchair allocated seats, and at the same time to make them aware that you need assistance (which you are expected to do at least 24 hours before travel or they can't guarantee your assistance will be arranged in time). So, in other words if you're disabled you're not allowed to spontaneously travel anywhere because it's simply too much hassle, not to mention the fact that you can't even travel to certain places as their stations are unmanned and you'll have no chance of getting off.
Arrangements will then be made for one of the station staff to meet you before the train arrives with a ramp and let you on, and again when you arrive at your destination the staff there will have been informed to arrange assistance to let you back off again. Yet, for something that seems so simple, the service is so inconsistent amongst stations.
Some stations are great (particularly the smaller ones) but some (Manchester Piccadilly) never hurry themselves to come and get you off the train despite having booked the travel assistance 'at least 24 hours before'. Yes, it's the end of the line and it's the last stop for a while, but still it's so scary being left on a train with no way of getting off independently. You've done all you possibly can by arranging your travel assistance yet nobody seems to care. People don't understand. Others on the train, they can just walk off.
So, when you eventually speak to a member of staff they will claim that they were 'on their way'.
Alongside the problem of the ramp and access onto the train, once you eventually get on there's an extreme shortage of wheelchair spaces which are often occupied by non-disabled people (often those with lots of luggage and are funny about moving when you ask, despite the sign behind saying that disabled people have priority by law).
Most modern buses in the North West now have raised pavements allowing independent wheelchair access onto the buses, so why shouldn't trains be the same?
Despite the improvements, public transport still has a long way to go in order to fulfil everyone's needs.
Colin Rabbich - Morecombe
For me, train travel is a total no ride zone. It's all well and good to hunt down the man with the ramp while on the platform, But once you're on the train what goes on at the arriving end platform side is completely out of your hands - bad communication or forgetful staff result in you not getting off the train! I feel that these experiences make you feel a huge lack in confidence in this service.
I feel taxis are the best form of transport, but I don't use them due to often being let down, and the hassle some drivers present. I didn't mind when I was younger to roll around in the back of a van, but now it's far too tiring!
My main issue with buses and taxis is their lack of regard for your property (wheelchairs), which as we know, and they probably don't is, extremely valuable with respect to price and personal value. Certain clamping systems that I've never been happy with, place uneven force on the chassis of the chair introducing tweaks in the frame and often leave horrible scratch marks.
I've experienced countless issues with drivers having no clue at all how to correctly secure a chair, many that quite simply don't care, and drivers that have no understanding with regards to making the journey more comfortable (please slow down on those speed bumps!) (No, my neck doesn't enjoy you're last second braking!).
I also recall one very cold winter night booking a taxi into town and back. A nice transit van dropped me off, and a very standard Mondeo came to pick me up. After calling back to the office they found they had no Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles available, so they contacted all the local firms to discover that none was available in the whole area. This left me dragging myself home on a very cold, drunken four mile return trip.
Catherine Alexander - Wirral
Ramps on buses are sometimes broken or too steep and passengers with buggies or shopping do not always move from the wheelchair space/priority area until the bus is moving, if at all.
I also remember a time when a bus driver let all my family off and then shut the door and started driving off. I panicked, he got aggressive and told me he was only moving so he could get the ramp down.
Read the full End of Line report.