Train travel - tell us your experiences, good or bad! — Scope | Disability forum
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Train travel - tell us your experiences, good or bad!

Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,673 Disability Gamechanger

Are you a disabled person who frequently travels by rail? If so, we’d like to hear about your experiences - both good and bad. When did a company get it right and make travelling easy? And when did the simple job of getting from A to B turn into a nightmare? 

train tracks

Whatever your experiences, we’re keen to hear them, so please let us know in the comments below.

Senior online community officer


  • swilber
    swilber Member Posts: 26 Courageous
    I recently went Gloucester to London Paddington in a wheelchair. I went with GWR and they were great at organising the journey leaving me to enjoy it.
  • slpowell
    slpowell Member Posts: 2 Listener
    I have had good and bad experiences. I find the requirement to book assistance in advance irksome. I also don't like the fact that that I can't book a wheelchaie space online when booking a ticket.

    My major complaint at the moment is the wheelchair spaces on Virgin East Coast trains. They're ludicrously small meaning that I have to sit sideways and there are no facing companion seats meaning I have to sit on my own. IMHO this is a very long way from a "reasonable adjustment".  Virgin West Coast trains are fine in this respect (a completely different company I know).

    I've also lesrned not to assume that the accessible toilet will be working on the train. They're out of service all too frequently. This is humiliating.

    My final gripe is having to wait for ramp assistance to leave a train. This is particulsrly poor at London Euston. I've had to wait up to forty minutes on a train post-arrival. Network Rail need to radically improve this service and employ sufficient staff.

  • jdtayloruk
    jdtayloruk Member Posts: 6 Listener
    Train assistance is a nightmare. I use to book this, I just ask at the station on the day of travel and they’ve phoned through. This is on trains to Kings X and on the London Liverpool St line. It’s just a complete shambles this assistance issue, sometimes visually impaired get muddled with wheelchair users.

    Im in good contact with the local operators, and I think this may be one of the first in the uk, I’m being told if you use west Anglia routes, and you are going to manned stations, you shouldn’t need to give 24 hour notice, and just turn up and go, I think this is in part due to some assistance policies being re-written after issues. 

    I just really don’t book assistance I just have my railcard and get help needed ask at the station on the day. I know for some people trains aren’t good there are areas for improvements but I don’t think I can take it further than I have already.
  • Sam_Alumni
    Sam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,673 Disability Gamechanger
    Senior online community officer
  • slpowell
    slpowell Member Posts: 2 Listener
    In my experience assistance can be and sometimes is refused if not booked in advance.
  • AnimalsAndMe
    AnimalsAndMe Member Posts: 7 Connected
    edited June 2018
    This happened a few months ago.

    I was on the train home with my brother who is also my carer. I was bursting for a pee but I'm terrified of train toilets. So I stayed seated with my legs tightly crossed so I could hold it in.

    When we arrived at the train station I walked up to the front desk and politely asked for the key to the disabled toilet. There are no other toilets in the train station as it's only a small town. The man responded by saying. "Wasn't there a toilet on the train?" I was so embarrassed because I had to tell him that I was afraid of the train toilet. After explaining it to him I politely asked again for the key to the disabled toilet. He then said. "I don't have the key so you will have to go somewhere else to relieve yourself."

     I left the train station struggling to hold back the tears. I find public transport scary enough as it is. My brother knows this all too well. So he booked a private hire coach to take us to and from our holiday destination when we go on holiday on the 30th of this month.
    I am different from others, but that doesn't make me bad.
  • Markinsutton
    Markinsutton Member Posts: 83 Pioneering
    Generally I have good experiences on the train using Southern rail and Great west railways, which always comes as a bit of shock considering I hear so many bad stories on the news from able and disabled passengers.

    My worst experience was on a virgin train back from Liverpool to London the whole journey took 8 hours and when I got to London my connection was cancelled leaving me trying to get a bus home that left me ending up breaking my leg as I fell over getting off the bus, so spent the whole Christmas in hospital only to have to go back to uni in a cast and ended up having to rely on using a wheelchair for a long time. 

  • axwy62
    axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    I've had excellent service on trains but also some pretty dreadful experiences, and of course it's the bad ones I remember best.
    During the 'beast from the East' I set off from London Olympia at 1.30 pm. On arrival in Southampton our train was suddenly minus a guard so they told everyone to get off and board a train on a different platform. 15 minutes later a person finally arrived, I thought to help me off, only to be interrogated as to why I was still on the train and hadn't got off as instructed. Clearly he either couldn't see the wheelchair or though I could manage the step if I took a run at it!
    Frome Station is a nightmare - the train is always late, it's always windy and there's nowhere to wait that's sheltered so I absolutely freeze in the winter. Last time I was there the guard was right at the back and almost didn't see me since they never seem to be expecting me no matter how long in advance I book assistance.
    Most recent experience was on Cross Country - the space is tiny so the guard ended up physically lifting my chair to get me in, but worst was having to ask more than 20 people to get off so that I could get on through the tiny corridor past the toilet. Only one of them complained.
  • Yadnad
    Yadnad Posts: 2,856 Connected
    edited July 2018
    I recently travelled from London Euston to Preston. Upon entering the carriage I realised that there must have been an order to evacuate London. I had to stand up leaning on my stick, halfway down a carriage whilst everybody pretended to ignore me. 
    It seems to be that 'it's my seat as I was ere first so p**s off'.
    And don't get me on the subject of buses!!!
    Never again will I use public transport - it's either a car when so kind neighbour offers me a lift to hospital or I stay at home and let the rest of the mad world pass me by.
  • Quinlan1
    Quinlan1 Member Posts: 33 Connected
    Use greater anglia from Great Yarmouth to Liverpool st never had and problems 
    They put me in first class but I only buy 2 class ticket
    I always get free coffe and biscuits  
    I go see my brother and they always asked when booking who at the other end 
    only problem I get is real people see the wheels think hell  she out and on her own 
    Liverpool st station is hard to get out of but we do

  • jdtayloruk
    jdtayloruk Member Posts: 6 Listener
    It’s good to hear about greater anglia. That’s one company that’s fantastic and I’ve been told one of the only ones in the country you don’t have to book assistance in advance.
  • April2018mom
    April2018mom Posts: 2,872 Connected
    My son has Spina Bifida ( a L1 lesion). I was taking a train up to London the other day and I suddenly realised that Oliver would have problems with getting onto the train alone. It was a sad moment for me personally. 
  • shirleyt214
    shirleyt214 Member Posts: 14 Courageous
    I have had mixed experiences travelling by rail.

    I always book assistance in advance and I've never had any problems. I find the staff to be very nice and helpful.

    Where I have had an issue is booking a wheelchair space - this isn't always possible on all trains, so you just have to turn up on the day and hope that another wheelchair user hasn't got there before you. There's usually only one wheelchair space too, so two wheelchair using friends can't go on the same train.
    Shirley Todd
  • Trekster
    Trekster Member Posts: 14 Connected
    I'm becoming train phobic due to my experiences of getting the train.

    I book assistance and it rarely completely materialises. Especially with luggage. I live at an unmanned station so despite telling the assistance when I book to "let the guard know at Weston super mare" this never happens.

    I've had assistance folk shout in my face instead of waiting for the train to leave before talking to me like an adult.

    I've been left on the train and had to get other passengers to get the platform staff to get me off.

    I've had passengers put their luggage or baby buggy in the way of the disabled priority seat when it is clearly reserved, I once chucked the luggage into the hallway to teach the other passengers a lesson.

    I've had passengers put their cases in the way of the door after walking up the ramp so I can't get on and sarcastically saying 'thank you' when I got annoyed at them. If you walk up the ramp then you know a wheelchair or food trolley is going up.

    I've had passengers refuse to move out the way so I can be wheeled past to get to the doors to get on the train. 

    I've had the trolley person stand having mobile phone conversation in scorching heat on the train when I'm trying to get a drink.

    I've had the transport police called on me because I refused to buy the wrong ticket then got shouted at because I wanted to make a complaint.

    I've been left to my own devices on the tube because you cannot book assistance on the tube.

    I've been parked in a carriage that has no wheelchair space facing the wrong way with my front wheels going all over the place.

    I've been shouted at by a train manager who had no Id badge on and did not introduce himself to me as the train manager. This was because I couldn't park my wheelchair due to the excess luggage in the wheelchair space.

    I've had bikes parked in wheelchair spaces and hallways so passengers cannot move so I can get off.

    I've had an assistant park my wheelchair the wrong way round because I complained that she wasn't helping me on the train, she expected my friend to help me. I'm scared to change at Southampton as a result.

    I've been told I'm "bloody lucky to get a taxi home tonight" after tube delays meant a bus journey across London and missing the last train from temple meads home. Also was told "you're aware of your disability so can make allowances for it" when my disability involves being unable to communicate my needs in a way people understand and understand what they're communicating to me as well, a classic case of 'just try harder'.

    I've been parked on a train at the opposite end to the toilet. 
  • SylviaMorrison72
    SylviaMorrison72 Member Posts: 17 Connected
    Hi all I had a very bad experience with northern rail last Wednesday! They treated me like I was a burden! I sent in a complaint which up until this morning they hadn't replied to me! Yesterday I had the local newspaper contacted me (I contacted them last Thursday but didn't seem interested) they have actually done a piece on me in there after the way I was treated! So finely somebody has listened to me it's in the Bolton news if anyone wants to read it! Hope you all have a great day!!! Xxx
  • DavidJ
    DavidJ Member Posts: 51 Pioneering
    Well reading through all these posts tells me that not a lot has a lot has changed with regard to the treatment of disabled travellers.
    I will never ever travel on public transport as long as I live . !!!
    I had 3 experience s before I went for my own vehicle via Motability..
    Experience one was quite a while ago but sticks in my memory !! 
    I was traveling to Bristol I think and the system was not in place for assistance as it is now . I bought my ticket and was escorted to the train along with the trolleys full of mail  that were going to be loaded. . Why? Because this was the only way they could get me on the train as the ramp was for the goods van!! I had to sit with all the mail and other goods all the way to Bristol .!! No windows no toilet no nothing . The guard must have changed during the journey and didn’t tell the new guard I was on the train. I was left until they unloaded the mail and almost gave the card a heart attack when he moved the trolley back !! I almost ended up in Penzance.
    As for the other it was on a bus . Or should I say wasn’t on a bus because I couldn’t get on . The designated area was full of pushchairs so the driver told me to get next bus . I missed a hospital appointment  !!
    Only one positive was up to Scotland . Train was full of squaddies going somewhere and they took over . Got me on the train and ensured I was in the right place at the expense of the person who had removed the reserved sign . I was lucky but I knew then I would have to sort it myself when I arrived at my destination and no one was there to meet me .
    Another reason I gave it up is the audacity of the price they charge nowadays to be treated like dirt !! No thanks 
    I will stick to my car !!


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