Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Carole Cooke (DAT 27)

1. Introduction

1.1 My submission of written evidence to this committee was prompted by my recent experiences of train travel as an individual who is required to use a mobility scooter due to having Multiple Sclerosis. I am particularly concerned with the accessibility of information, the provision of assistance by public transport staff and staff awareness of the needs of people with different disabilities.

2. The accessibility of information: including the provision of information about routes, connections, timetables, delays and service alterations, and fares.

2.1 Information regarding the availability of assistance has in my experience proven to be inaccessible and inaccurate, with the information differing between operators.

2.2 I was recently able to book assistance online for train travel from a station that apparently does not provide it, demonstrating a lack of consideration for those requiring this important service and a fundamental flaw in the booking process. Whilst I booked my travel via an operator other than that which I was travelling with, if all operators had access to, and provided customers with accurate information regarding the availability of assistance, this would have prevented a situation arising where I was left on a railway station platform with no means of boarding the train.

3. The provision of assistance by public transport staff and staff awareness of the needs of people with different disabilities

3.1 My recent experience of train travel has highlighted to me several insufficiencies with the provision of assistance by public transport staff and staff awareness of the needs of people with disabilities.

3.2 My dissatisfaction with the current provisions recently came to a head through a planned train journey from Beeston to London St. Pancras. Despite booking assistance online from Beeston station for my outbound journey and from London St. Pancras for my return journey, I was left stranded on the platform at Beeston, unable to embark the train.

3.3 Prior to the departure of the train, a member of train staff enquired as to whether I wished to board the train before returning inside the carriage. A subsequent investigation into the matter by East Midlands Trains informed me that there were several issues in this instance:

3.3.1The member of train staff gave an incorrect signal, informing the driver that the train was ready to depart

3.3.2I should not have been able to book assistance from Beeston Station as this is not available (my booking was made online through another train operator)

3.3.3Ramps are not carried on board all trains.

3.4 Despite the above I was successfully provided with assistance and able to board the next train from Beeston to St Pancras, indicating that assistance can in fact be provided (even if this is on limited services) and highlighting the uncertainties and discrepancies amongst operating companies, train staff and station staff.

3.5 I faced similar issues on my return journey. In order for me to disembark the train, two passengers were required to lift my mobility scooter off the train due to the lack of provision of a ramp on board the train or at Beeston Station.

3.6 My experiences firstly demonstrate a lack of awareness and training amongst public transport staff of how best to assist people like myself who require assistance getting on and off trains due to limited mobility and the use of mobility scooters or wheelchairs.
Secondly, my experience has highlighted a need for better provision of equipment to facilitate the boarding and disembarking of trains in order to allow users such as myself to have sufficient access to vehicles.

4. Recommendations

4.1 The above issues could have been avoided with simple provisions that would greatly assist those such as myself who wish to be able to use public transport with safety and ease. My recommendations to improve disabled access to public transport are as follows:

4.1.1The provision of a ramp on all trains and/or at all railway stations.

4.1.2Accurate information regarding the availability of assistance at the time of booking.

4.1.3Frequent staff training relating to following the correct procedure when assistance is required.

January 2013

Prepared 13th September 2013