Call for rail staff to take responsibility for accessibility failures

A Maidonian who was left stuck on a train when staff failed to bring her a ramp has called for greater accountability from rail service providers.

Meg Thomas was travelling back from Tottenham Court Road on the new Elizabeth line. Being in a wheelchair, she needs a ramp to get off at Maidenhead.

In theory, Transport for London (TfL) employees will radio the request through to staff at the destination station, to make sure it is ready for the person who needs to use it.

But when the train pulled into Maidenhead, there was no ramp – and Meg was unable to get off.

Fortunately, an employee on the train was able to arrange for a ramp to be set up at the next stop, Twyford, so Meg could alight there and get back to Maidenhead.

If it hadn’t been for this, she might have ended up at the terminus – something that can and does happen to people, she said.

“When I eventually arrived back at Maidenhead, and questioned why no ramp was available upon my arrival, I was told they hadn’t been notified,” Meg said.

This was despite the fact that she ‘had heard the TfL representative making the call and receiving the confirmation’.

“I even missed a train because they wouldn’t allow me on it until they’d radioed ahead,” she said.

“They have been boasting about the Elizabeth line being step-free and user-friendly, which I’m really grateful for – [but] this is so simple and they can’t get it right,” Meg added.

She wants to ‘shine a light’ on the problem to ‘make someone accountable for leaving disabled passengers on trains and planes.’

“This is a too regular occurrence – it’s not just me, it’s a lot of people. It happens all the time and nothing seems to get done,” she said.

She said the experience has given her some ‘trepidation’ about doing similar journeys.

After the incident, Meg contacted TfL to ask them to investigate and was told by automatic reply that there would be a response in 10 days. This was on May 3 – with still no reply to date.

Asked for comment, a TfL spokesperson said that because Maidenhead station is managed by Great Western Railway, it would be GWR staff providing assistance at the station.

GWR in turn has apologised, saying it is unsure where the breakdown in communication occurred but ‘clearly this should not have happened.’

A spokesperson said:

“We are really sorry that this request for assistance was missed at Maidenhead station and will be in touch with Ms Thomas to offer our apology directly.

“We are currently reviewing the full circumstances to understand why this incident occurred.

“At GWR we successfully respond to in excess of 14,000 requests for assisted travel every month, and incidents such as this are rare.”