Yesterday we were traveling home from Hull on a Northern train and was told by the train manager we are not allowed to travel anymore on their trains with my mobility scooter.
When we were nearly in Sheffield, with about 20 mins to go, a member of staff on the train came to talk to us and told us that it’s against their policy and we aren’t allowed on their trains anymore with a mobility scooter.
Let me explain. My mobility scooter dismantles into 5 pieces, can be carried as luggage, can be stored away, put in a corner, or wheeled on a ramp… whatever is easiest. It doesn’t take up more space than a pram or a bike. It really is no problem at all. Without my mobility scooter, I can’t get very far. I rely on using crutches to take even 1 step and because I only have 1 hip joint, I can’t walk unaided.
To get onto the train at Hull, 2 members of staff from Transpennine Express helped us board by lifting and carrying dismantled and folded pieces of my scooter on the train, giving us a hand with our luggage and pram (I have photo of this). It was no problem at all, they were very helpful and quick. But, it seems that those staff shouldn’t have been doing that because Northern trains don’t allow us to travel on their trains!
Northern trains have told us that I’m not allowed to travel anymore and they did us a “favour” by “letting us” get the train home yesterday. It was almost as if they were asking for a round of applause. Not to mention apologies for “upsetting me”…
I’m disappointed how they told us this, in a carriage busy full of passengers listening, because it is embarrassing. We were not informed about this in a discreet manner or on the platform at Sheffield for privacy, once everyone else had left the train. The staff member told us, quite loudly, in front of everyone else in the carriage, that we were not allowed to travel on their trains anymore.
I wanted to cry at the end and I’m not just saying that to sound dramatic or to make me seem like I want a pity party because I don’t, and she was apologetic, but I felt like I stuck out even more like a sore thumb in that carriage being told us about having a mobility scooter because I can’t walk… blah, blah, blah… I felt that I may as well have stood up and explained myself to the whole train. I just felt like I was getting told off because I have the mobility scooter. So embarrassing.
Note, we also had a pram and they didn’t even ask us to fold it down. Our pram and another pushchair were in the opposite side of the wheelchair bay, taking up more room than the scooter. It just doesn’t make any sense.
It is very disappointing. It’ll be the new year by the time I can walk properly again and so we won’t be welcome on northern trains until then. But, mostly, I’m disappointed for all the other people this will make traveling inconvenient for… because for me it’s only temporary, I’m lucky that I can get my problem fixed and when I have a new hip I will be able to catch a train “like a normal person” (quote as I don’t believe that is even a thing) and not break their stupid policy rules. But for some people, they don’t have a temporary problem. This could be a problem for the rest of their lives. And imagine I had been traveling alone, too, I would have felt even more embarrassed.
So what is the problem?
We have traveled with Cross Country Trains going from Wakefield to Sheffield in July. Cross Country were more than happy to help us on board, met us at the platform and took the scooter on their train with a ramp. Transpennine Trains have a similar policy, and have told me it’s fine to take scooters on their trains, too, so long as it’s folded or dismantled. So why can’t Northern do the same and help people with disabilities travel?
If Cross Country Trains, Transpennine Express Trains, Stagecoach Supertram and many other train operators can make reasonable adjustments (which is right by law) to help those who are disabled on board their trains, why can’t Northern do the same?
And this is not only the problem. I’ve not been impressed with their attitude from Northern staff in general, either.
For a little back story… I’ve used trains a LOT in the past. I haven’t been needing to use assistance for a very long time. I lost the ability to walk 6 months ago due to Septic Arthritis in my hip following child birth. I currently have only 1 real hip joint. My right hip has been taken out, as it was eroded away with an infection, and so now I have a cement ball and metal rods in there, and can’t weight bare at all on that side. This will be in there for months until I can get a total hip replacement.
I was really nervous about traveling with a mobility scooter, so back in July, we booked a very short journey from Sheffield to Wakefield. This was with with Northern Trains. We made a request for passenger assistance for help on/off the train, a ramp and made them aware of the mobility scooter. The request for assistance was accepted and confirmed by email. I was nervous, though, so we rang them up to double-check. Over the phone, Northern staff confirmed the assistance, told us staff would meet us on the platform to help, and the mobility scooter was okay if dismantled and folded.
However, no staff turned up to help us on the platform at all. There was no ramp, no help with luggage and very rude Northern staff member who told us we were not allowed on the train. This staff member argued with us, did not help, and told us that “we would get no help on the other end, either” (Wakefield).
Coming back home from Wakefield to Sheffield the day later, was with Cross Country Trains, who met us at the platform – 2 members of staff, and thankfully, got us on the train without any fuss. Thank you, Cross Country.
The mobility scooter I have folds and dismantles into pieces and can be carried onto the train as luggage. It doesn’t take up loads of space on the train, it easily fits into wheelchair area on the train, or in the luggage rack. It can be stored away, or it can be easily parked in the wheelchair area of the train. I travel with my partner, who can carry it on, requiring no staff member to help with that, and it is not a safety issue; I’m not driving it on the train up and down the aisles.
Without my scooter, I simply can’t travel. I can’t walk not even 1 step without crutches. If I’m not using my mobility scooter, then I have to use crutches to get anywhere… and I can’t go very far.
We are a family of 4. We have a 5 month old baby, a nearly 4 year old toddler, and of course, luggage. It’s simply impossible for us to use a wheelchair as that means my partner would be pushing me… leaving no free hands for the baby and toddler. I don’t feel I should have to explain myself, though. Getting my mobility scoter on and off the trains is no problem to anyone whatsoever. The only problem is not allowing ME to travel on the trains with it… and I really don’t know why.
It is discrimination, it’s embarrassing and makes me angry. As I’ve said, I’m lucky to have only a temporary disability and by the new year should be on my feet again. But for some people, this is their life and this means they are not allowed to travel on Northern trains for the foreseeable future until they change their stupid policy and invest in some staff training.
I want to be able to travel the same as anyone else. If other train companies can do this then why can’t Northern?
Each time we have traveled with Northern Trains, we have been discreet, quick and got the mobility scooter on with no issue at all. At Hull, transpennine express staff even helped us get it on board and were joking around with us, making conversation, and being very helpful.
And yet it seems Northern trains can’t do the same.
It’s clear that Northern don’t want people with disabilities on board their trains. It must be too inconvenient for them. 🙁
Oh, and just to note, when we arrived in Sheffield yesterday… Northern didn’t provide any assistance to help us off the train (despite us having this confirmed by Transpennine Express in Hull). We had to manage on our own, getting the scooter off in parts, all our luggage, and the steps off the train with my crutches without a ramp as they didn’t provide one. What did the train staff say about this? “Oh, no one came to help you? They must have gone to help someone else”. Thanks, that’s great.