Mobility scooters were making news headlines recently in Scotland, when a disabled lady was turned away from a train because of her mobility scooter.
The train line concerned, Northern rail, told the lady that they did not accept mobility scooters onto the line, despite the fact that the woman concerned had travelled the line before on six or seven different occasions.
The refusal from the train guard resulted in the lady being stranded at the station with no way to get safely home to Maryport from the Carlisle station. Railway staff eventually provided a disability taxi to take her home.
This was despite their being adequate space on the train available, and protestation from fellow passengers and the Journey Care representative present.
Mobility Scooter guidelines
Northern Rail have accessibility guidelines in place to offer assistance to disabled travellers. According to their website, people using manual and powered wheelchairs can use train services, but may find some platforms and stations inaccessible.
Their guidelines about mobility scooters goes much further. Unless a scooter can be folded down and carried onboard as hand-luggage, the rail line cannot allow mobility scooters on their trains. A spokeswoman stated that many scooters are not easy to manoeuvre, and unless they can be folded and carried as luggage, they wouldn’t be able to accommodate them safely onboard.
This incident has helped to highlight a possible health and safety issue across the network, and Northern Rail have taken steps to reiterate their policy on mobility scooters to all staff, so that all stations now follow the same guidelines.
Train access is an important consideration for anyone who is thinking about purchasing a new scooter, and plans to travel regularly by train. There are a wide range of scooter designs of offer that are easy to fold and lightweight to make carrying easier.
The best way to ensure there will be no disruption to your travel arrangements would be to check with the trail line concerned, and book assistance with your journey through the rail lines Travel Care or Journey Care service.
Many rail lines such as Virgin and Scot Rail have good provision for disabled accessibility, but they do urge passengers who may require assistance to contact them in advance to enable them to access their services efficiently.
Travel assistance is offered across all rail networks, and can help disabled passengers with their travel needs. This may be in the form of having a person to help you on and off the train at each end of your journey, or reserving specific seats close the the exits for those with limited mobility.
Cross Country trains, for example, offer a Journey Care service where a specialist team will help to plan your journey, book your tickets, and provide physical assistance whenever you need it on the day of your journey. Help can also be arranged if you need to change trains at any point during your journey.
Booking Travel Assistance
Travel assistance can usually be pre-booked through the rail networks website, and arrangements can also be arranged over the phone, or via textphone.
Many trains carry dedicated spaces for wheelchair users across Standard and First Class carriages, but it is always best to check with the rail line first to ensure there is adequate availability.
If you book your rail tickets online, the website will usually give you an option to choose travel assistance, and the scale of help you need through a drop down menu of care. Usually though you will need to give at least 48 hours notice of needing travel assistance for your requirements to be accommodated.
When booking assistance by telephone or textphone, with some train lines you may only need to give 24 hours notice, but it is wise to give as much notice as you possibly can.
Travelling without prior notice
There may be times when you need to travel urgently, and therefore may not have the time to pre-arrange travel assistance. In these cases, most rail networks advise you to alert station staff on arrival to make them aware of your needs. The staff will do everything possible to help.
Rail travel is a convenient way for disabled individuals to get around, and there are railcards available for passengers with disabilities and their carers or companions to travel at a discounted rate.
The National Rail website at www.nationalrail.co.uk has a very useful route planner called Stations Make Easy that allows you to see photographs of stations, so you can plan your route via the more accessible stations on offer.