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Travelling by train

MikeFromLFE Member Posts: 6 Listener
I am the 'official carer' for my wife - which we both (at 63 & 64) find faintly amusing but Mrs M has increasingly poor mobility, she uses a stick rather than a wheelchair, and (I'm sure she wouldn't mind me saying) can get very flustered in busy surroundings.
She is labelled as 'Disabled' by officialdom being the recipient of PIP, and a proud displayer of Blue Badge, and has been awarded the Order of the Disabled Bus Pass.
We are increasingly travelling by train - although we can both drive, neither of us enjoy the journey, and with her rail pass, journeys are eminently affordable.

When we are able to plan journeys in advance the rail assistance scheme works like a dream when changing trains (the staff at Sheffield station seem to love showing us their goods lift and overbridge!), but only up to the door of the train. And the scheme is no use if - like yesterday - we were unsure of our travel plans (we left Birmingham much earlier than expected due to the temperature)
This is where our / her problem lies - when on the train, or when boarding the train - there is often a scrum to board, particularly at commuter stations, such as Birmingham & Leicester (an increasingly common journey pair), meaning Mrs M and I are left searching for seats. The assistance people will get you onto the train, but don't want to help to get you to a seat (I gather this may mean that the departure gets delayed). Some trains have 'Priority Seats' - generally occupied by business-folk wanting the extra legroom, or youths with oversized backpacks. 

While I accept that most people, most of the time, are mostly OK - is there a recommended way for Mrs M to approach the issue of actually (a) not getting crushed in the scrum to board, and (b) getting a seat without getting at worst abuse, or least 'the look of shame'?
I'm aware of the 'Priority Card' schemes that some rail companies work (although not any of our local companies) - do folk find these help, or do they just worsen any embarrassment?


  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,557 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @MikeFromLFE and a warm welcome to the community! I can definitely relate to what you are saying in terms of busy trains! 

    When you book trains, do you reserve a seat? This is something I always do if possible. Also, when booking train assistance, it is possible for them to get you to a seat.

    I hope this helps :)

  • MikeFromLFE
    MikeFromLFE Member Posts: 6 Listener
    Thanks for your reply, and the welcome.
    When we go on a long journey, and we are certain of our travel plans, yes we do always book seats. However, it is often the case (like yesterday) that our travel plans change at short notice, so a reservation isn't possible.
    We've never had assistance to get to the seat on the train - they always leave us when we get onto the train; I did ask why once, and we were told 'it would take too long to get you to your seat and that might delay the train's departure'! (Maybe this is specific to East Midlands Trains, Network Rail and Trans Pennine operated stations)
    As I say, the assistance works well, upto the point of getting onto the train - then it's a free for all!
  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,557 Disability Gamechanger
    Do you ring up to book the assistance in advance? By doing so, you should be able to state that helping getting a seat is part of the support you need.

    I can understand why they may unfortunatley be reluctant to do this when it short notice. I can completely relate to what you are saying, so I'm sorry I couldn't be more help!

  • MikeFromLFE
    MikeFromLFE Member Posts: 6 Listener
    Ah! We've never said we need assistance getting to the seat - that might be the answer to the conundrum! 
    We've got a trip to Aberystwyth shortly, so we'll give that a go. Thanks
  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,557 Disability Gamechanger
    No problem at all! I hope that helps! 

    Please do let us know, and I hope you have a lovely trip :)

  • Richard_Scope
    Richard_Scope Posts: 3,103

    Scope community team

    Hi @MikeFromLFE
    I use the rail network quite a bit and being a wheelchair user I'm usually at the centre of the 'scrum'. I would recommend that when you are taking a journey at short notice that you and your wife find the assistance office at the stations you are travelling from. The staff will assist you on to the train and make sure you are both seated safely.
    Specialist Information Officer and Cerebral Palsy Programme Lead

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  • forgoodnesssake
    forgoodnesssake Member Posts: 406 Pioneering
    There is an ongoing issue with Northern trains and all their sister companies in that they do not make seat reservations, for anyone!!  We have written to them and to our MP, as have others, but there is no sign of movement.  They claimed in a reply to me that as they don;t reserve any seats it is not unfair on wheelchair users....completely ignoring the point we were making which is that an ambulant person can probably hop on and squeeze in somewhere if there is no seat...but  w/c user needs a space!  So we have the ridiculous situation that anyone travelling on an Northern (Arriva) train may well have booked all the assistance they need to get on and off the train, but not actually be able to travel on the train for which assistance has been booked becuase there is no available w/c space!
  • MikeFromLFE
    MikeFromLFE Member Posts: 6 Listener
     So we have the ridiculous situation that anyone travelling on an Northern (Arriva) train may well have booked all the assistance they need to get on and off the train, but not actually be able to travel on the train for which assistance has been booked becuase there is no available w/c space!
    I suspect that a lot of this madness is the fault of the crazy way in which Rail Franchising is set up.
    The TOCs operate the trains (Train Operating Companies) - the TOCs may, or may not, operate the stations that the trains call at. For example : Hinckley (Leicestershire) station is operated by East Midlands Trains, the only services that call there are Cross Country Trains; Cross Country Trains do not operate any stations; the main hub for Cross Country Trains is Birmingham New Street which is operated by Network Rail, who do not operate any trains! Go figure that lot!
    The station staff are responsible for getting the train away on time, and the operator of the station gets fined if trains are late departing, so they (and all the parties involved) will do everything they can to avoid extra responsibilities which might delay the service.
  • Misscleo
    Misscleo Member Posts: 647 Pioneering
    We find the middle of a train (where that tin rubbish is on the roof)
    Is where you can get on IN your wheelchair. Giving that bike riders are not commondering the whole carrage 
  • Roddy
    Roddy Member Posts: 398 Pioneering
    Due to a pedestrian (only) bridge, I'm unable to travel by train from my nearest local station.  I'm also worried that there will be other stations were crossing platforms is close to impossible. 
  • AlexW_Scope
    AlexW_Scope Scope Posts: 216 Pioneering

    Some rail providers have started offering ‘priority seat’ cards and badges to passengers. They may ask for evidence of why you need it. Railway providers offering priority cards or badges include:

    There's lots more travel advice on Scope's website. Hope this is of use!


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