As I boarded a train to Nottingham, I noticed a passenger in a wheelchair being helped onto the train in the disabled section.
I happened to notice that the toilet beside the disabled person space was engaged – and remained so throughout the journey.
If that one toilet is engaged or out of order, I thought, how is an individual in a wheelchair expected to use the rest of the (very narrow) toilets on the East Midlands train?
As this thought came to mind, I put on my nursing hat and quickly logged onto the internet to read up on the disability policy. Once I‘d familiarised myself with what a disabled person should expect, I visited the toilets on board the coach where I was sitting and noted that they were all the same size.
Okay, I’d not walked the entire length of the train, but I needed reassurance that there was a working and accessible disabled toilet on board.
So, I asked a staff member if there was a wheelchair assessable toilet on the train.
“I could not help but think what would happen if the passenger on the train needed to use the toilet”
He explained that they had two on the train and they were both in working order. Phew! Thank God for that.
However, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to confirm what he’d said. I walked to both ends of the train. I could not help but think what would happen if the passenger on the train needed to use the toilet.
I checked and checked but there was only one disabled toilet on this train and, yes you guessed right, sadly it was the very one with the toilet engaged sign throughout the journey.
I asked another train assistant how many disabled toilets they had on board and he said there was only one. I pointed out to him that it was out of order and that the engaged sign had been on since London.
He was very surprised about this, and quickly apologised about the situation. By now, we were 30 minutes away from Nottingham and the end of the journey.
“What is the point of a wheelchair accessible toilet if the only one on board the train is broken and not useable?”
So, still with my nursing hat on, I’m left asking the question: what is the point of a wheelchair accessible toilet if the only one on board the train is broken and not useable, out of service or not fit for purpose?
Maybe this is not my business, but whose business is it? Perhaps the customer service staff on the train, the train manager or driver?
Surely, when an individual in a wheelchair gets on the train, it is vital to ensure that the toilets are in working order.
Actually, even that is not good enough, because all amenities on board a train should be checked before passengers board the train.
I hate to think what might happen if the non-disabled toilets on a train were out of service. Will the majority keep quiet or look the other way? Somehow I doubt that.
Do all trains have working and accessible disabled toilets?
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.”
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