Having recently raised the issue of a lack of disabled toilets on a UK train service, Josephine reflects on the recent media coverage resulting from the experience of paralympian, Anne Wafula-Strike, having no access to a toilet throughout a train journey
A few weeks after my blog on the lack of disabled toilets on an East Midlands train was published, the media has been bombarding the public with Anne Wafula-Strike (MBE)’s experience on a Cross Country train that did not have a functional disabled toilet.
I empathise with Anne, but I hate to think that it had to take a celebrity and well-known public figure for the government or the press to acknowledge the lack of accessible disabled toilets on UK trains. Whatever happened to efficient service provision for a service that was paid for? Disabled or not, famous or not, amenities on trains should be in working order for all.
What a coincidence one might say, my blog was published on 8th December, the same day that Anne travelled on the Cross Country train. Although something tells me that there is a likelihood that many more people have had similar experiences to Anne, but they did not tell anyone and the press failed to pick it up or ignored them.
“Who knows what excuses the train managing directors will ask us to understand”
According to Anne, “by the time they reached a station with a disabled toilet, it was too late”. The good thing about this is that it may not be too late for other disabled persons who travel on trains in the future… Then again, who knows what excuses the train managing directors will ask us to understand, such as this ridiculous one: “trains hitting cows” (Andy Cooper, Managing Director of CrossCountry).
I remember once having to pay double the cost of travel because my train from Eltham to St Pancras was delayed and the time when I forgot my rail card so had to pay more. I would really like someone at the train office to understand that those excuses were true.
“At least Cross Country trains bothered to respond and apologise”
Now on the issue of train companies ignoring complaints about the lack of or faulty disabled toilets on trains, Anne stated that while Andy Cooper added that Anne would be offered “complimentary first class travel tickets by way of an apology”. At least Cross Country trains bothered to respond and apologise. Nursing Times contacted East Midlands trains for their comment before my blog on the lack of functional disabled toilets on their train was published, their response arrived almost two months later.
“Why did it have to take this type of situation for anyone to notice?”
In their 3rd January article, the Guardian asked people with disabilities to write to them about their inadequate services for disabled people. Ok, don’t get me wrong, I may not be considered disabled, but I am a mental health nurse who cares about health and wellbeing and I feel that we need a more proactive, rather than this reactive, response to this sort of health issue.
The Independent, BBC, Guardian and now the rail minister, Paul Maynard, have decided to act. But why did it have to take this type of situation for anyone to notice that such an important aspect of service provision was missing from an industry that charges travellers very high prices for train journeys?
Josephine NwaAmaka Bardi
RMN, ESRC PhD Student, University of Nottingham
Response from East Midlands trains
An East Midlands Trains spokesperson said: “The vast majority of our services run without any problems with toilet facilities and we’ve had many positive comments from customers with disabilities about the assistance they have received from our team. We want customers with disabilities to be able to travel with confidence. Therefore, in the event that an accessible toilet is not working, we send out proactive messages via twitter, and our stations and on-train teams are made aware so that they can keep customers informed.
“Where a customer has booked assistance through our team for their journey, we would endeavour to contact the customer in advance to see if they wanted to travel on an alternative service.”