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Rail ordeal prompts mobility warning

10:00 09 April 2013

Andrew Smith has spinebifida and has a new mobility scooter.He tried to get on a train from norwich to lowestoft and train company said his scooter was too big he had to get a taxi instead.

Andrew Smith has spinebifida and has a new mobility scooter.He tried to get on a train from norwich to lowestoft and train company said his scooter was too big he had to get a taxi instead.

©Archant 2013

People using mobility scooters are being urged to check in advance about access to rail services after a Lowestoft man and his wife were forced to get off a train and take a taxi home instead.

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Andrew Smith, 45, who has spina bifida and cannot walk, was unable to get on a Greater Anglia train from Norwich station to Lowestoft – an ordeal that he described as a “nightmare”.

What made it all the more frustrating for Mr Smith was that, earlier that same day, he and his wife Pauline, 55, had been allowed to travel on a train from Norwich to North Walsham without any problems.

Mr Smith, who lives in Maidstone Road, said he began using a mobility scooter because his wife was finding it difficult to push his wheelchair. But despite earlier travelling to North Walsham by train to visit his mother-in-law, he was stopped from getting the 2.58pm train home from Norwich later that day as staff said there was no space.

As a result, he and Pauline had to travel home by specially-adapted taxi – a journey paid for by Greater Anglia.

Mr Smith said: “The whole day ended up as a nightmare. Next time I get a train I will see about checking in advance with them first if it can fit on. I would advise other scooter and wheelchairs users to do the same.”

Greater Anglia said the train Mr and Mrs Smith were trying to get on – a class 156 sprinter – was part of a fleet undergoing a £3m refit to provide improved access for people with mobility problems and new disabled toilets.

A company spokesman apologised for the inconvenience. He said: “We are sorry we were unable to convey this particular customer and their mobility vehicle on the 14.58 service to Lowestoft. Despite the best efforts of our staff, the vehicle could not be manoeuvred into the area of the train set aside for wheelchairs and such vehicles and therefore we made alternative arrangements for onward transport on this occasion.”

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