A pensioner who spent the remainder of her savings on a mobility scooter in order to “keep her independence” has been prevented from using it by a train company.
Gillian Cockburn, who lives in Redcar, says travelling by train is the only way she can visit her sick husband, who is currently in the James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough. The 70-year-old usually travels from Redcar East station to Middlesbrough Central, but last Saturday morning, a Northern Rail staff member said she could not take the mobility scooter on board the train.
The rail company confirmed it doesn’t allow any type of mobility scooter on their services due to their “restricted manoeuvrability and stability – unless they can be folded up and carried on board as a piece of luggage. Mrs Cockburn, who describes herself as “severely disabled” says that while she might manage to fold up her mobility scooter, with some difficulty, she is physically unable to lift it on and off the train. She says the ruling means she is unable to visit her husband, who suffers from vascular dementia, on his birthday.
Gillian Cockburn explained: “I have travelled to the Midlands to visit my daughter using this mobility scooter and I have never had any problems. I am severely disabled and I have to rely on public transport to travel around – I don’t understand why this train company is any different. The alternative they have suggested is using a manual wheelchair, but that would take up more space and be harder to get on the train. If the mobility scooter was just lifted on, they wouldn’t have to use the ramps, and it would be so much easier and save so much time.”
A spokesperson for Northern Rail said: “As we operate several different types of trains and our services call at more than 500 stations with a variety of platform heights, this can cause safety issues when driving a mobility scooter on or off a train with a low platform. Unfortunately, the trains we operate were built before the introduction of mobility scooters and were therefore not designed with them in mind.”
The spokesman added: “However, we will continue to listen to customers to help inform future developments in our train fleet. We are always open to listening to our customers’ needs and requirements and are working towards improving accessibility for all.”