Every time I meet with Northern I raise concerns about the ability of disabled passengers to access local rail services.
The issues with overcrowding make it almost impossible for wheelchair users and people with mobility issues to use rush hour services. You have to be physically fit to battle your way on board and spend your journey stood in the middle of a packed carriage.
Almost half of all train stations across Greater Manchester are still not wheelchair accessible.
When problems arise they are not quickly corrected. For example, last year a lift at Bolton station was inoperable for weeks. I had one constituent contact me who was advised that after arriving in Bolton in order to exit the station they had to catch another train to Wigan and then come back to Bolton to exit via a different platform.
The situation is not improving either. Just recently I saw this footage of a young woman making a journey from Chester to Bolton who apparently had Northern staff threaten to throw her off a service at Oxford Road station because she had a mobility scooter.
There is a growing insistence that people who need help to board must book everything well in advance and are still left worried that there will be no staff on hand to help if there is any kind of delay or change. One of the key concerns about the industry push for driver only operation is that the service will deteriorate further for disabled travellers.
Research by Leonard Cheshire has shown that over a third (35%) of those surveyed said they had experienced problems when using trains in the last year as a result of their disability.
I support their call for good quality, accessible public transport so that disabled people can live, learn and work independently as they choose.
Journeys should be accessible from end to end – that means being able to get into the station, onto the train, off the train, and out of the station the other side.
It also means access to disabled toilets and facilities throughout the entire journey, clear and timely information, easy-to-use ticket machines and working lifts.
These all contribute to living and working successfully in our communities.
Leonard Cheshire have launched a petition to demand better transport. I’m backing it and I hope that you will get on board too – https://campaigns.leonardcheshire.org/demand-better-train-travel-disabled-people