Blind Sheffield woman fell from train after pre-booked assistance never came to help
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Deborah Fairclough, from Crosspool, says she finds it “crazy” there are still failures in access to public transport for disabled people in 2022 after the painful incident in October at Langley Railway Station in Berkshire. The 68-year-old shared her experiences while speaking to the ‘That’ll Be the Day’ podcast hosted by Tom Walker, which reports on railway safety for the visually impaired.
The journey’s operator, MTR Railways, says it “deeply apologises” for the incident.
Deborah said: “I got off lightly compared to what has happened to some. But it’s crazy that we’re still in 2022 talking about access to public transport which we should all have. I booked assistance three or four days in advance before I travelled by ringing East Midlands Railway, who manage Sheffield station.
“When I got to Langley, no one from assistance came. So when I got there, I didn’t know there was a big drop from the train.”
As a result, Deborah was made to navigate the steep drop alone and find her own way to the platform.
“I got up, I got my cane and the door opened,” she said. “But as I stepped out, the door started shutting and I fell. I sort of fell forwards as well as backwards, so I landed half in half out. Then the door began to shut on me and I had to try to push it back open – I heard the beeping from the door, and when nobody came I thought the train was going to go out while I’m laying on the floor. It was terrifying.
“A manager came running along the train then. They came and helped me up and dragged me up by my hands.”
Deborah says she hurt her arm, shoulder and hand in the fall. The member of staff at the time told her the incident was “totally unacceptable” and that it would be investigated.
Deborah said: “I will continue to travel by train – I don’t have a choice. But from my point of view I won’t trust the process until it’s thoroughly reviewed and I know there is sufficient staff and training in place to provide the assistance that we as disabled people need.”
Scott McLeod, communications and stakeholder manager at MTR Elizabeth Line, said in a statement: “We deeply apologise for failing to provide the assistance required for her journey on the Elizabeth line. Her travel experience was unacceptable and is not the service we aim to provide, nor representative of the service experienced by customers requiring assistance.”
“The Elizabeth line has been designed to create new journey opportunities for all. To achieve this we offer a ‘turn-up-and-go’ service on the entire route. We don't require any bookings for those requiring assistance. When a customer requiring assistance arrives at one of our stations, a member of staff will call through to their destination station to ensure there is someone to help them off,” he added.
“On this occasion, no one called through to Langley, so no assistance was set up when Deborah arrived. We have investigated why this didn't happen and have reminded our partners of their responsibilities to try and prevent this happening again. All trains on the Elizabeth line are fitted with passenger communication intercoms with the driver. These are located at each doorway. If a passenger has any safety issue, we advise them to remain on the train and to use this feature to speak with the driver who is able to organise assistance.”
‘That’ll Be the Day’ is an independent podcast set up by Tom Walker that reports on railway safety for the visually impaired. He launched it after his blind friend, Andy Taylor, was killed on the railway in 2009.