For my journey, after I had booked my tickets, I filled in the assistance request form to make sure that the ramp would be put out for me to get onto the train. On the platform at Manchester Piccadilly, there was another wheelchair user who had not booked assistance also waiting to get on the train.
When they saw me, they offered to get the next train, as they knew I had booked, but the man with the ramp said he could get us both on the train (I don’t think he wanted to come back with the ramp again). He got the other wheelchair user on first (putting him in my wheelchair space!) and put the ramp down to the door marked for bicycle users, which was by the toilets, basically in the bike rack!
It was awful, it was not carpeted like the wheelchair space, so, as my wheels were wet from the rain, I was sliding all over the place so my carer had to try and secure me as best she could with her feet. A woman also tried to move my wheelchair as I was blocking the way (completely out of my control, there was nowhere else safe to park) and started verbally abusing my carer to move ‘it’ so we started arguing with her. A drunk guy also came and sat next to us and started stroking my carer’s leg, getting higher and higher up if you know what I mean…and obviously we couldn’t move away from him so just had to put up with it, We didn’t want to argue with him as we were the only ones in this part of the train, so did not want to provoke him. It was so unsafe and degrading, I felt like a piece of luggage – we didn’t even have any windows so we had no idea where we were!
I’ve drafted a letter which I will send in the next few days to East Midlands Trains, Manchester Piccadilly Station and ATOC explaining what happened and asking what their protocol is when two wheelchair users are wanting to board the same train, especially if one has booked assistance and the other has not. I’ve also asked what they intend to do to make sure that this does not happen again – we were very lucky we were not injured or worse, as we were in a very vulnerable and unsafe situation which probably broke many health and safety rules!
I’ll blog again once I hear back from them!