A charity founder who has multiple sclerosis claims was told she would have to carry her mobility scooter off a train by a conductor who REFUSED to help her.
Sharon Jackson, 59, was left “completely humiliated and exposed” after told by a conductor the only way she could leave the train was “if you WALK OFF and carry your scooter”.
Mrs Jackson said she was terrified as she “could not rely on her legs” and “frightened he wouldn’t let her off”.
She had booked a return journey from Lancaster to Newcastle via Carlisle, with assistance for her mobility scooter where needed.
However, on her journey home on Sunday evening (26 Nov), there was no room for Sharon’s scooter to be stored on the two-carriage Northern train between Newcastle and Carlisle.
Sharon, who is the founder of the Neuro Drop In Centre which helps people with neurological disabilities, said: “The whole area for the disabled access was full with a large bicycle and people’s luggage.
“I had to travel for 35 minutes sitting on my scooter in the aisle.
“Normally I would fold it up and sit in a seat.”
Sharon, from Lancaster, said she was then informed by the guard her scooter shouldn’t have been allowed on and a ramp wouldn’t be provided for her to leave the train at Carlisle.
She added: “I was told I would have to carry it off myself.
“It was a horrible situation. I got a bit frightened; it was dark and my companion was 70 and couldn’t be expected to carry the scooter.
“When I’ve sat for periods of time I’m very wobbly anyway.
She said the conductor added: “These are the rules and I’m sticking with it’.”
Sharon rang her husband Graham, who tried to contact Carlisle station and then British Transport Police.
She also posted a message to a local forum on Facebook and many of her friends rang Virgin trains to plead for help in assisting her off the train.
Fortunately, Virgin Trains staff saw her pleas and, at Carlisle, Sharon was assisted by the police and staff, who used their own ramp to help her from the Northern train.
They rushed across the platform with two members of the British Transport Police and set up the ramp to allow her access off the train.
They then put her in a first class carriage to Lancaster.
Sharon said: “I only managed to get home because Virgin Rail interceded and brought their ramp to help me get off the train.
“Their train was lovely and warm and I couldn’t thank them enough for all of their help.”
Sharon wants to raise awareness about travel for disabled people and hopes her experience changes the way the train operators deal with people with mobility scooters.
She said: “I understand sometimes it can be a problem with mobility scooters but the rule has to be consistent.
“I had booked assisted travel for the whole journey and had no other problems.
“By the time I got to Carlisle I was very shaken. I felt completely humiliated, the whole thing was just so embarrassing.
“I couldn’t believe it was happening, I felt very exposed.
“We live in a society where we should accept that everyone is different. We just want to be normal and my normal is sometimes using a mobility scooter.
“I paid for my ticket and I am just as entitled to travel as everyone else.”
A spokesman for Northern said: “We can only apologise to Mrs Jackson for her experience travelling with Northern. As we work to improve our services, we would welcome a formal complaint, which can be made by calling 0800 200 6060.
“At the moment, the only mobility scooters we can take on our trains are those that can be folded and carried on as a piece of luggage.
“This is due to the restricted manoeuvrability and stability of mobility scooters and the design of our current trains. Most of our trains were built before mobility scooters were introduced and so not designed with them in mind.
“Our train crews are happy to assist with loading and unloading a folded scooter. We participate in the industry-wide Passenger Assist programme and encourage customers who may require assistance when travelling on our services to contact us before they travel on 0800 138 5560 to see how we can help.
“As we work to upgrade our train fleet, we want to improve access for people with all disabilities. For example, we are currently trialling a new mobility scooter booking system on some routes as part of a policy review.
“On this occasion, the conductor did explain the scooter policy, but once the train arrived into Carlisle went on, with the assistance of other staff at the station, to help the customer disembark so she could continue her onward journey.”
When asked about the claim she was told to “walk off” carrying her scooter Northern said it would not be appropriate to comment on an individual aspect of the case until its investigation had concluded.