A WHEELCHAIR user was furious after finding her space on a train had been taken up with suitcases and luggage.
Becky Whitworth, 27, was travelling with her mum and sister from Dundee to Doncaster on the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) train service after a long weekend.
When she got on the connecting train at York for the second half of her journey, she found that her reserved space was completely filled with other travellers’ luggage.
She told The Sun: “The guard put me on, saw all the bags said ‘oh that’s your reserved space but it’s ok,’ then put me at the opposite side which isn’t for wheelchair users.
“So as my chair wasn’t backed up against anything solid, my sister had to stand and hold my chair steady to prevent it tipping.”
To make matters worse, Becky had been made to get a train six hours earlier than the one she had wanted as LNER ironically told that her preferred service had no space available.
Her discomfort was added to when the ticket inspector came by.
Becky said: “A guard came to check the tickets, which were in a bag on the back of my chair (hard to get to where we were) so the guard was instantly stand-offish that they weren’t at hand.”
He demanded that Becky and her family provide further proof that she was on the correct service as the tickets which she had assistance booked with LNER were deemed suspicious.
The guard did not comment on the fact that Becky was not in the designated wheelchair space, or the fact that the disabled toilet on the service wasn’t working.
Becky says that the problem will only improve when more wheelchair spaces are made available on trains, as well as better training for guards assisting wheelchair users.
She said: “I mean what other minority group would it be acceptable to tell them that only one of their kind can travel on that train? It’s appalling.
“I literally dread travelling on trains. We have to pre-book assistance. You’re often told you can’t get on the train you want. The toilets are broken more often than not. Your space is usually filled with cases and or pushchairs and the guards will do very little to help.”
Becky, a journalism graduate from Barnsley, has Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease, which means that her bones break very easily, having suffered over 300 fractures in her lifetime.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, an 11-time Paralympic gold medallist, shared her frustration at Becky’s situation.
She told The Sun: “Very simply the space designated for wheelchair users should not be used to store luggage.
“There are very limited options for wheelchair users where they can sit and staff should at all times keep the space clear.
“I’ve often had passengers thinking they can stack cases around me and even lean them.”
Since contacting the LNER’s complaints team, a customer relations manager has offered to meet with Becky to discuss her experience.
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Becky said: “Obviously it’s a great start and I hope it does mean that changes will be made in the near future.
“These kind of issues happen day in day out for disabled people travelling and it’s mind blowing that it’s still acceptable.”
The Sun has contacted LNER for comment but has not received a reply at the time of writing.
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