Train Station sign and red/white logo. The writing on the sign reads Twickenham Station

Wheelchair user claims mistreatment by train guard at Twickenham station

A wheelchair user claims she was mistreated by a train guard at Twickenham station because she had not booked a ramp, despite there being no requirements to do so.

Lucy Webster, a disability activist and journalist, had been out for dinner with a friend and was making her way home on the 22:41 evening train on Thursday 22 February.

The guard told her she had made his job harder because she had not booked the ramp in advance.

Webster said: “The whole problem is there aren’t enough staff on duty later and they’re under the assumption that disabled people won’t be out after ten.

“Often, they will say to you, oh, you know you were travelling after ten.”

The journalist said the ramp had only taken 30 seconds to get out and for her to board.

Booking a ramp would have meant various time-consuming forms had to be filled out and Webster would have been tied to strict, stress-inducing timings.

Webster explained to the guard she did not know how long she was going to be out.

Webster’s female personal assistant said they had the legal right to ‘Turn Up and Go’ when boarding the train, but the guard refused to accept this.

When Webster and her PA alighted the train at Waterloo, both thanked the guard for his assistance and asked him for his name, he allegedly said: “Is that how you thank someone who’s gone out of their way for you?”

Webster, reflecting on the incident, said: “We are disabled by our environment and by attitudes more than we are by our bodies.

“I was travelling with someone, and I could go about my day, but if someone was alone, if they weren’t that confident, if they couldn’t advocate themselves when someone was telling them to always book in advance, then it might have stopped them from getting on the train.”

Webster voiced the mistreatment she received from the Southwestern Railway guard by making multiple posts on her 10.9k followed X account @Lucy_Webster_

South Western Railway Services responded to the posts saying: “I’m very sorry for the experience you had while travelling on one of our trains. I’ll get this reported to our guards’ management team to be investigated. Please accept my apology.”

The railway company later responded with an updated X: “Hi Lucy, this has been forwarded to the accessibility team who are investigating this now. Please accept our apologies again.”

Transport for All, a disability-led group focuses on breaking down barriers and transforming transport for disabled people.

In December, they released a detailed report assessing the barriers disabled people face when accessing public transport.

Approximately one in four people in the UK are disabled and do not have equal access to transport.

Transport for All, in their report explained due to the inaccessibility of rail infrastructure, many disabled individuals rely upon staff assistance to travel by train.

They discovered that only 11% of stations are staffed at all times and 45% are staffed part-time.

Campaigns and Communications Officer at Transport for All said: “Without Turn Up and Go, disabled people are deprived of our spontaneity and the freedom to move through the world like everyone else.

“Having to book every single journey two-hours in advance also puts us at a serious risk of getting stranded if something goes wrong; what happens if a meeting runs over, if our dinner reservation gets cancelled, if we have to get to a last-minute appointment, or we simply want to go out for drinks after work?

“If non-disabled people can expect to turn up and hop on the next train then disabled people should be able to expect this freedom too.”

The Government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy of 2018 requires that all licenced train station operators must write and follow an Accessible Travel Policy.

These policies must provide an equitable service for disabled passengers across a range of areas.

Those with disabilities should be able to journey with freedom, dignity, ease, and confidence, but the severe lack of railway staff poses a real problem for these individuals.

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