Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Paul Chitty (DAT 01)

I am an active wheelchair user—I am unable to walk or stand.

I have a number of issues relating to access to public transport.

1.When I wish to travel this often requires me to contact the rail company—they ask that they are given 48 hours notice, this raises a number of difficulties. Often I need to travel at short notice so am unable to contact the provider with 48 hours notice. Sometimes this works out well, the assistance which I require is a ramp onto the train, then again to leave the carriage. I am asked which trains I will be travelling—both outbound & return. This poses a problem if I need to change times, maybe on return either earlier or later. The system does not allow for this.

I have suffered verbal abuse from both platform staff and guards for not giving correct notice when I travel—I have dealt these instances, but sadly these occur from time to time. My concern that some disabled travellers might be put off using public transport if they experienced such abuse. Many disabled people lack confidence, so any improvement in customer/staff training would be welcomed.

2.Access to trains. It is a pity that there is not level access from platform to trains in the majority of stations. I am aware that some underground stations have installed platform humps which is an excellent solution and would avoid the ongoing use of a ramp—this is a way of increasing a wheelchair user’s independence. On numerous occasions there has been no staff present to assist me with a ramp from train to platform when detraining—on occasion I have assisted by passengers—sometimes been left on the train. If this has been a terminus station sometimes I have waited 10 minutes—a through station has meant passing my destination, very frustrating. Some trains are poorly designed—I experienced this using South Eastern Trains—a wheelchair user is not able to be located in the seated area, instead is limited to a small area by the doors. This is both frustrating for a wheelchair user—for other passengers this can pose a challenge when they are accessing the train as a wheelchair is an obstacle in quite a confined space.

3.Platforms and station—there are still numerous stations which are not accessible or partially accessible to wheelchair users. The added complication is that many stations have reduced staff.

Waterloo East is not easily accessible for wheelchair users—however the mainline station operated by South West Trains is better designed with both lifts, plus street level access on many of its entrances. As Waterloo East is a central London station this needs to be rectified.

4.Paralympics—travel at this period was much improved for disabled travellers. I personally used the services in London—with the increase in Volunteers I found many disabled people felt enabled.

November 2012

Prepared 13th September 2013