A disabled dad has told the media how he got stranded at a railway station which allows wheelchair users to arrive but not leave.
Richard Luke arrived at the station with wife Natalie and daughter Scarlett and was able to use a ramp to get off the train and a lift to get off the platform.
But when they returned to the station after a weekend away there were not facilities to allow him get back on the train and head home.
Richard, who has cerebral palsy, made the train journey because he was speaking at a conference in Herne Bay, Kent.
He said: “I felt awful because I was with my daughter and she’s never seen me treated any differently. She doesn’t see me as disabled or someone who uses a wheelchair – I’m just dad.
“On that occasion I was treated differently and she was very upset. I think she sees me as a little bit differently now – she doesn’t just see me as dad any more. She’s started fussing over me more than she used to.”
Richard, from Coventry, had booked accessible tickets months in advance for the trip, which was on Southeastern operated trains. The family arrived home late at night, hours after they were supposed to.
Richard said: “Not one member of staff said I wouldn’t be able to return from Herne Bay. They knew I booked assistance, and I had given great detail about my impairment and mobility issues.”
Richard spoke about the trip as part of disability charity Scope’s campaign to improve public transport for disabled people.
The charity says said four out of five disabled people have felt anxious about using public transport, and three in five disabled people have felt scared.
Richard said he often gets on long train journeys to find the only disabled toilet is out of service. He added he said he plays “ramp roulette” with his family – a joke about whether staff will have a wheelchair ramp at his destination station. He also has problems securing his wheelchair because some passengers also often fill up the disabled space with luggage, blocking Richard from securing his wheelchair.
Paralympic champion Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson is supporting Scope’s campaign.
She said: “The frustrations and uncertainties disabled passengers face can turn what should be a straightforward journey into a nightmare. I take more than 100 train journeys each year and experience first-hand the problems and inconsistencies that many disabled people face when travelling by public transport. Too many disabled people are being isolated by a service which should be connecting us.”
Scope is calling for a passenger charter on public transport, which would clarify what rights disabled passengers have on trains, buses and metro services.
A spokesman for Southeastern said: “We’re well aware of the difficulties passengers with accessibility needs have to deal with when using Herne Bay station.
“As a matter of course, we offer a complimentary taxi service for passengers to reach the nearest accessible station, and we’re sorry that on this occasion that Mr Luke wasn’t made aware of that arrangement in good time.”
“Fortunately, Herne Bay is in line for Access for All funding from the Government, which will fund a new footbridge and lifts to make the station fully accessible to everyone, reducing the need to use a limited number of accessible taxis to connect with trains in the London-bound direction, which clearly isn’t ideal”.