We are hearing day after day about the problems faced by passengers using, or should I say, trying to use, Northern, since the new, seemingly, unworkable, timetable was introduced last month.
These problems are serious; there is no argument about that. They are causing extreme inconvenience for everyone who uses the, so called, service. However, disabled people are being hit especially hard.
Northern has never been a disabled friendly company, in spite of what their disabled policy might state. The carriages they use are, very often old and uncomfortable, with very little space for wheel chair users. The on board toilets, on many trains, are totally unsuitable for a disabled person to use. They are much too small. Many of the stations in our area are unstaffed, or only staffed at busy times, therefore a disabled person, has no one to ask for assistance.
If the company get their wish and we do end up with driver-only operated trains, many disabled people will be unable to travel by rail at all. At the moment a rail replacement bus is operating between Oxenholme and Windermere. This will be extremely hard on disabled travellers. It is hard enough on the general
traveling public, so imagine what it is like for those with hearing or vision difficulties, mobility problems or mental health issues?
Sadly, Northern is not the only train operator to discriminate against disabled people. Trans-Pennine Express has recently announced that one third of its trains on the Liverpool to Scarborough line, which goes via Manchester, will have no accommodation for wheelchair users. This flouts anti-discrimination law. A rail operator named Govia Thameslink Railway has recently instructed its staff not to help disabled people, if this action would hold the train up. They say this is company policy. However, this again could be flouting the law and is certainly very worrying for disabled people who use this service.
Many disabled people are unable to drive, because of their disability. Others are losing their mobility cars after being assessed as not disabled enough to need one. As there are cases on record of double amputees being refused a car, this is difficult to understand. However, for whatever reason, people with disabilities are often dependent on public transport and public transport should be able to accommodate their needs.
Our railways should be taken back into public ownership as soon as possible.
Jean Withers – Disability Officer