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Lack of assistance by Transport for Wales ‘makes me question my place as a disabled person in society’

11 Mar 2024 4 minute read
Credit: Y Byd ar Bedwar

A visually impaired woman has said that the accessibility of Transport for Wales trains makes her question her “place in society as a disabled person”.

Elin Williams, from Eglwysbach near Llandudno, told the current affairs programme, Y Byd ar Bedwar, that the additional services available to the disabled community “does not work 100%”.

“The support doesn’t always turn up, which really affects my confidence and how comfortable I feel travelling.

“It is so important in terms of independence and enabling me to go from one place to another, and it is important that the support service works so that I can keep that independence.”

Elin – Credit Y Byd ar Bedwar

Safety

Elin has a vision impairment called retinitis pigmentosa, which is a degenerative condition. She can see light and colours, but without much detail. Therefore, she relies on local train services to travel safely.

Elin uses an app called ‘Passenger Assist’ while booking a train journey. The app allows her to notify Transport for Wales what sort of help or assistance she needs when travelling.

When a request for assistance is approved on a Transport for Wales train, it is the company’s staff role to provide the help.

The aim of the app is to support disabled passengers on trains across Great Britain, and is a scheme in partnership with Network Rail.

Assistance options – Credit Y Byd ar Bedwar.

Help

When booking, Elin selects the following assistance options: ‘help finding a seat’, ‘sighted guidance’ and ‘request priority seat’. She also adds at the bottom of the application: ‘I need to be guided to the platform, onto the train to my seat, and off the train.’

Elin recorded the help she received on a journey from Llandudno Junction to Rhyl.

A member of staff met her at the station and guided her to a specific seat, and said she would contact the team in Rhyl to make sure they were aware that Elin was on her way.

Elin was placed in a specific seat to make it easier for the staff to find her and escort her off the train.

However, although she waited after the train stopped, a member of staff failed to meet her and she had to venture to the platform alone.

While walking on the platform, a member of staff did eventually make their way to meet Elin, but she had already gotten off the train. This is “the most difficult part of the journey”, according to Elin.

This situation was not new to Elin, who depends on public transport for work and socialising.

“It’s a pretty common experience,” she said.

“No one has ever come on the train to help me get off and onto the platform. I think that emphasises that the rights of disabled people to travel are not considered.

“When I book that assistance, I ask for help while getting off the train, and then to get out of the station. But that didn’t happen.”

Talking about that specific trip, Elin said that the experience was “not perfect, but there were positive aspects… but there is still room for improvement.”

In a freedom of information request by Y Byd ar Bedwar, the number of complaints last year about accessibility on Transport for Wales trains had more than doubled since 2021.

Credit Y Byd ar Bedwar

Concern

According to Elin, she has written to the company several times over the years with concerns about the service provided to disabled people.

“I have never had an apology or an explanation when I have complained about the service,” she said.

“We have a right to an accessible and equal service to make sure we can access society like everyone else without having to face barriers.

“But, of course, when those rights are not implemented, those rights are ruined, in a way.”

Credit Y Byd ar Bedwar

In a statement, a spokesperson for Transport for Wales said they were “committed to improving accessibility at stations across the Wales and Borders network, and our work has been led by dedicated experts who advise us on how to support disabled customers […] to use our service effectively.”

Watch Y Byd ar Bedwar at 20.00 Monday evening on S4C, Clic and BBC iPlayer.


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hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

A public service with no idea what service really means. I despair when I read how much loot these underperforming leeches suck out of the public purse while bleating about not getting enough! Any plans on sacking a few chiefs who are far too comfortable in their non jobs ?

Geoff Ryan
Geoff Ryan
1 month ago

It is not Ms Williams’ particular impairment (retinitis pigmentosa) that makes her ‘disabled’ but the failure by the rail services to provide the support she needs to maintain an independent life. The opposite of ‘disabled’ is not ‘able’ (still less the appalling ‘able bodied’) but ‘enabled’. It is the failure to enable Ms Williams that disables her – and every other person who is not provided with the support they require to allow them to function independently despite impairments.

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