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Dont rely on the railways if you travel by wheelchair

Again we forced to look at travel issues that face the wheelchair user. With all the turmoil of the revised rail timetables across the UK, wheelchair users seem to be getting the raw end of the deal and in some cases it seems that the disability discrimination legislation has been flouted entirely.

The major problem facing wheelchair users seems to be wit the TransPennine Express route as for a while the normal modern carriage have been replaced with old rolling stock including 45 year old carriages that do not cater for wheelchair users.

The main rail workers’ union has accused TransPennine Express of disregarding the current disability discrimination legislation and in effect operating a heritage railway by bringing back into service carriages that were built in the 1970s for British Rail.

Currently, 12 of the 34 hourly services to and from Liverpool and Scarborough via Manchester Victoria, Huddersfield, Leeds and York are affected effectively meaning that wheelchairs will not be able to travel on these routes. Furthermore, if wheelchair users do want to use this route they will be declined access if an older style carriage arrives and instead asked to use the next train thus facing a wait of one hour. If the following train is also not suitable then a taxi will be provided for the wheelchair user(s).

The old carriages are unfit for wheelchair use in a number of ways but mainly the problem is dues to the slam style doors, small inaccessible toilets, the low-back seats and grab rails, all of which fail to meet the specifications of disability access regulations.

Mick Cash, the general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), said: “British private train companies are ripping up disability discrimination legislation as they go along.” He accused TPE of “turning the clock back on progress that has been made”.

Those of us who rely on wheelchairs are already dealt a bad hand by trains in northern England and unable to easily board any of the dozens of the Pacer trains in operation across the region. A musingly, an RMT spokesman said: “These train companies are effectively operating a heritage railway, using old rolling stock that went out of fashion when Slade were in the charts” which speaks volumes.