04.12.2022

Disabled suffer more train misery as they are unable to reserve seats on busy services

Disabled people are being prevented from travelling by train because rail operators are refusing to allow passengers to reserve seats on busy services.

Those who require wheelchair access can book one of a handful of accessible seats ahead of their journey.

But disabled people who do not use a wheelchair – including those with Parkinson’s, arthritis or other mobility problems – cannot follow suit.

Campaigners say the situation means some disabled people are suffering painful falls in carriages, after standing for several hours.

‘Others have no option but to spend hundreds of pounds on taxis or private hire cars, or cancel trips entirely, leaving them isolated from friends, family and colleagues,’ says Sue Christoforou, of the charity Parkinson’s UK.

One Parkinson’s sufferer, who struggles to walk, told The Mail on Sunday he was forced to cancel his holiday to the Norfolk coast because he was unable to reserve a seat on a train from his home in the West Midlands.

Only six out of 23 train operators contacted by The Mail on Sunday said they allowed passengers to pre-book seats on all services.

Those who require wheelchair access can book one of a handful of accessible seats ahead of their journey. But disabled people who do not use a wheelchair cannot follow suit. (Pictured: Blue badge disabled parking card)

Campaigners say the situation means some disabled people are suffering painful falls in carriages, after standing for several hours. (Stock image)

Disability charity Scope called the findings ‘outrageous’, adding: ‘Disabled people are treated like second-class citizens when they use our train network.’

It comes as a Scope survey of more than 3,200 disabled people found almost a quarter avoid using public transport due to the unhelpful attitudes of staff or fellow passengers.

‘People don’t always give up their seat – even if they are sitting in a priority-seating spot designated for people less able to stand,’ says Scope’s Louise Rubin.

In June, The Mail on Sunday joined forces with Paralympian and disability campaigner Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson to call for better provision for disabled air and rail travellers.

She has told of being forced to crawl from a train carriage to the platform due to a lack of available staff to operate a wheelchair ramp.

The Department for Transport recently promised to make all railways fully usable for disabled people by 2030.

However, research by the disability charity Leonard Cheshire estimates that, at the current rate of progress, 2070 is a more realistic deadline.

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