Passenger accuses Greater Anglia of ‘not really valuing disabled customers’
PUBLISHED: 06:30 05 December 2019 | UPDATED: 08:25 05 December 2019
A wheelchair user has questioned Greater Anglia’s attitude toward disabled passengers after the train she was due to travel on arrived with no accessible carriage.
Anna Wall, 25, booked a seat in advance for the 9am service from London Liverpool Street to Norwich on Monday, December 2.
She requires a designated space to put her wheelchair and an accessible bathroom, but the train arrived with neither and she was unable to board.
Miss Wall, a postgraduate researcher and associate tutor at the University of East Anglia, said: "As we got to the train we realised that, instead of having a first-class carriage with space for a wheelchair and a disabled bathroom, this train just had all carriages without any of that. This happens so often, so I was quite frustrated.
"The station staff were really great and did offer to put me on the train anyway, but with a two-hour journey ahead I don't want to be on a train without a bathroom that I can use."
She was forced to catch the next train, which did have the necessary facilities, but it meant that she missed the 11:30am meeting that she was travelling for.
Miss Wall travels between London and Norwich regularly, visiting family and undertaking research in the capital and fulfilling her duties as a PhD student and tutor at UEA.
She claims that this is the third time in the last four months that there has been no accessible carriage on a train she has wanted to travel upon, and estimates that the bathroom has been out of order on "more than half of the trains that I've been on in the last few months".
She said: "The disabled loos are consistently out of order and that's the only one on the train that I can use. Everyone else can walk further up the train to use one of the normal loos, but I'm stuck with it. Quite often that means that I can't get that train.
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"It's called public transport for a reason - it's supposed to cater for everyone all the time, not just when the train companies feel like it."
The common response from frontline staff in these situations is to apologise and find her a space on the next train - Miss Wall does not blame them and understands that they can do little else, but is concerned that Greater Anglia are sending out trains without accessible facilities.
"This train - as far as I'm aware - was on its first journey of the day. It's not as though the toilet broke in the middle of the afternoon, it left the depot without a wheelchair-accessible carriage on it, and that seems absurd to me.
"For the, the train was in working order, but for me - and a lot of people like me - a train is not in order if the disabled loo is out of order. It comes across as an attitude of not really valuing disabled customers if they're happy to say that a train that we can't get on is perfectly serviceable for the day."
Miss Wall believes that the rail company need to do more than just apologise to disabled passengers and offer them a space on the next service in these situations.
"She said: "There seems to be this attitude around disabled people that we don't have jobs. I really want them to get rid of this idea that it's absolutely fine to say that disabled customers can just get on the next train.
Disabled passengers seem to matter much less. I've paid the same price as everyone else and I've paid for the same service - why am I not getting the same outcome?"
A Greater Anglia spokesperson said: "We are very sorry that the train Anna was booked onto didn't have the correct disabled facilities on it. We fully appreciate how frustrating this was for her. We take accessibility extremely seriously and we're trying hard to improve it on our railway.
"We're working hard to bring in our new trains - which have better accessibility features - into passenger service between Norwich and London as soon as possible. These trains have a retractable step at every door to bridge the gap between the train and the platform, making it much easier for wheelchair users to get on and off the train.
"They also have a dedicated wheelchair area, with plug and USB sockets and an accessible toilet, which were designed with the help of disability experts, some of whom are disabled themselves.
"Some of our other accessibility initiatives include bidding for funding to make stations accessible to everyone and rolling out accessibility training run by three disabled professional trainers for all frontline staff."
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