Mobility scooter user Isla Reid, 25, from Southport, who is also pregnant, said she felt discriminated against after she was unable to access a train from Lime Street Station in Liverpool to a hospital appointment.
But the firm says it is piloting a mobility scooter-friendly scheme on its electric trains in Yorkshire. It says it hopes to expand the scheme more widely as soon as possible, once new trains and platforms have been installed.
Ms Reid said: “I can get on almost any train in the country other than Northern, who I feel are discriminating against the disabled. They say I’m not allowed on their trains as they don’t allow mobility scooters. But I don’t have anything else, like a wheelchair. It’s an outdated rule and it’s horrible – I’ve got to get to an appointment. I was hoping to go from Liverpool Lime Street to Broadgreen.”
She explained: “First, someone said to me they didn’t have the right ramps when I asked over the phone. Then someone said they couldn’t have the electric chair on a diesel train. Then one staff member told me to get a taxi – and that they might reimburse me – but only assess the situation after I’d paid for it.”
Isla continued: “And, recently, at Lime Street, a Northern worker said that wasn’t the case – and said it was a safety issue having a mobility scooter there when passengers needed to get off. But I think there is space onboard. They looked quite shocked at Lime Street when I said to them I regularly travelled with Virgin, London Midland, Southern. London Midlands go from the same station and allow mobility scooters; Merseyrail trains feel smaller than Northern but they let me on.”
A spokesperson for Northern said: “We are always open to listening to our customers’ needs and requirements and are working towards improving accessibility for all. Of course, feedback is absolutely key to ensuring we provide the best possible customer service and experienced both now and in the future.”
The statement continued: “However, currently, due to the restricted manoeuvrability and stability of mobility scooters, we do not accept any type of mobility scooter for travel on our services, regardless of size, unless it can be folded and carried on board as a piece of luggage. We do not ask customers to carry on the folded mobility scooter themselves. If they are travelling alone or require assistance, our train crew team will be happy to assist with loading and unloading.”
The spokesperson added: “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. However, we will continue to listen to customers to help inform future developments in our train fleet.”
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