Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

A 70-YEAR-OLD wheelchair user has told of successes and failures in assisted travel at train stations.

Lina Talbot has been using a wheelchair for 20 years and has tried to avoid train travel where possible due to worries about traveling alone.

Lina, a resident of Brighton, lives alone and employs college students to help keep her home running and help her when needed.

She has been sitting in a chair since she was 50, when she underwent surgery for a landslide that left her with nerve damage and caused her to retire early from a career as a hospital registrar.

Last month, Lina decided to travel to London to visit her son in his home, something she had not been able to do before.

She said: “It’s putting wheelchairs on a whole different level. I love adventure and I’m very positive, I was determined not to get stressed. I did two training runs for Lewes and Chichester and prepared to read aloud. and book Southern Rail and Thameslink Assisted Travel online. ”

On her dry runs, Lina had been accompanied by a friend, but for her trip to London, she decided to go alone, so as not to force her student assistant to follow.

“It all went swimming at Brighton station, although I had to talk to the staff to get a ramp and help with my luggage. So I’m not quite sure what the booking of the assisted journey actually does, or who will actually be notified of it, ”she said.

The Argus: Lina with her helper on their way to Brighton train station.Lina with her helper on her way to Brighton train station.

Lina then encountered a small problem as she ran up the ramp and was confronted with a post in the middle of the carriage on the Thameslink train, and her teenage assistant then had to run on board to drop off her bags before the doors closed.

Lina said: “There was not really enough time for her to do everything I needed, but luckily my fellow passengers saved my luggage as my suitcase was rolled off to the end of the carriage, so funny you can see .

Due to a points error, she was then diverted to Blackfriars instead of London Bridge, where her son was waiting for her arrival.

“It suddenly dawned on me that there would be no one to help me get off at Blackfriars. I had to call the locomotive driver because there was no one up and down the train and he called back, when he had spoken to the station and informed me that everything was set up.

“A couple of passengers from Hove then came to my aid and helped drag my luggage in elevators and to the new platform. They were amazing,” Lina said.

After a “wonderful” weekend with her son in London, Lina then struggled on her journey home and found out that the help she had reserved had not turned up.

Her son had to request a ramp to board the train and quickly managed to get his luggage on board before the doors closed.

“Then no one called ahead to inform Brighton that I was coming, so I had to talk to the driver again. The call then set off the alarm and made people run out of the toilet. You have to laugh.”

Again, despite booking in advance when Lina arrived at Brighton station, there was no ramp for her because there was another passenger before her who was assumed to be the only wheelchair user on the train.

She said: “Luckily my teenage helper was now on the platform and shouting at the staff. I’m just wondering what’s really going on with my booking or request because it looks like no one has ever seen it before I get to the stations ?

“As I said, I’m a very positive and happy person, and I really do not want to moan, but I can not help but think that the process could be made a little more efficient to ensure that other disabled people can travel more easily, and we ‘ is not deterred from such travel.

Argus: Brighton train stationBrighton train station

“We need to remain calm and, as always, speak out to ensure that our helpers know exactly what we need.”

When he heard about Lina’s struggles, Carl Martin, accessibility manager for Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “We are on a journey of improvement and we regret that we did not meet the high standards that were rightly expected of us.

“Like any incident reported to us, we will investigate this thoroughly so we can learn from it. We are determined to improve our level of service, we provide passengers in need of assistance to give everyone confidence to travel with us. ”

GTR reports that it implements a range of services to improve accessibility across its network. These include new accessibility training, less time to book assistance, additional Try-A-Train days, better ‘Turn Up & Go’ service for 41 smaller stations and a new passenger assistance app.

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