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Southeastern Railway

What a Faux pas

TBH faux-pas doesn’t quite describe it, a fuck-up of epic proportions however does.

As fuck-ups go this was like King fuck-up, king of the fuck-up people from fuck-up Island on planet fuck-up.

An important hospital journey

I had to make a journey from my house to Kings College hospital in Denmark Hill, a straight forward drive, however because of building work at the hospital they currently have no car parking facilities at all.

This meant either using patient transport which is an absolute shit show at the best of times of going by public transport.

I decided public transport, train to be precise.

4 weeks ago

4 Weeks ago, I booked my train journey in with “passenger assist” a national system that all train companies support, which allows us to make arrangements to assist our passengers with disabilities or restricted mobility.

https://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/travel-information/more-travel-help/accessible-travel

I had to be at the hospital by 14:00 on the day and when I tried to book this journey, they kept trying to get me to take the last possible train that would get me there on time, I refused this and instead insisted they booked me on an earlier train which would get me there 45 mins before I needed to be there.
They actually told me I was being over-cautious but as it transpired it was a very wise choice.

In a wheelchair

Because I am in a wheelchair, I need to use accessible stations and trains, my local railway station isn’t accessible so I couldn’t use that and instead had to go from another nearby, but not the nearest one.
The journey was booked which included assistance to get on the train, assistance at the midpoint interchange to get off the train, change platforms and get on the new train and assistance at the end point to get off of the train.

This was all arranged and confirmed 4 weeks prior to the journey.

They even emailed me last night to confirm all the details again.

At the station

We arrived at the designated station 20 mins prior to the train arriving, which was advised by passenger assist, we were met by a member of staff who knew all about the booking and went through it and the procedure with us.

He then told us where to wait on the platform which we duly did.

I saw a sign

While waiting on the platform I just happened to check the arrivals board on noticed a scrolling message “Some lifts at Lewisham are out of service” What? that’s our interchange.

I duly sent my partner off to check this out with the member of staff.

After a few minutes he came back as apologetic as hell and said “It’s all the lifts, and they have been out of action for a week” I need the lifts to change from the high level to the low-level platform at Lewisham, without the lifts I am totally fucked. And cannot use that station.

A week?

Did he just say, “a week”? a fucking week? Why didn’t anyone think to check this little fact? This is precisely why I booked this service; they promise to check these things beforehand and even on the day.

Thank fuck I booked an earlier journey than I needed. After a bit of a debate, we decided the best possible thing was to go another station that had a direct route to where I needed to be.

A mad dash

So we went back to the car and went on a mad dash to the new station, my partner then called passenger assist to get the new journey booked.

Another fail from them because she tried to explain several times, we couldn’t use Lewisham and they insisted they put us on hold while they phoned Lewisham FFS.

In the end we gave up on hold and put the phone down.

Once we got to the new station, we found a member of staff that was very helpful and arranged the assistance for us at the other end and then said “I saw your booking on the system this morning and I did wonder how it was going to happen with the lifts not working”

As we waited for our train he said, “What time are you coming back?” We didn’t know as it all depended on how long my surgery took, he said, “Well this station won’t be manned for the rest of the day in an hour, so there will be no-one to get the ramps to help you off when you come back” But they should send someone back with you to do that for your return journey.

We finally made it to the hospital with a few minutes too spare, which was down to my foresight 4 weeks previously on insisting on an earlier train, if I had taken passenger assists original advice, I would have been at least 45 mins late.

The return journey

Because I had no idea how long my surgery would take, we couldn’t book the return journey in advance and the advice was just call us when you are ready to come back, so we did, this turned out as comical as the outward journey

The advice they gave was to make ourselves known to the staff at the station and they would sort it out for us.
We duly did this and they said “We’ll call ahead to Eltham and have someone meet the train with the ramp for you to get off” we told them that Eltham wouldn’t be staffed which sent them into a panic.

They then told us to go to the platform and wait for our train while they sorted it out.

Eventually a member of staff came down to the platform to get the ramp so we could get on the train but he told us that they couldn’t send anyone from this station with us to help at the other end and he would try Lewisham, but he wasn’t hopeful, and he didn’t know what to do
Luckily I do have some mobility and I just wanted to get home so we said we’ll manage at Eltham, it won’t be easy, my partner isn’t a youngster either but between us we should be bale to get the wheelchair off the train.

As the train pulled out the guy came running over and tried to tell us something but I didn’t catch it.

We spent the journey mumbling about how useless passenger assist was and dreading getting the chair off the train.

As we pulled into Eltham, we worked out what the guy was trying to tell us, there was a member of staff there with a ramp to meet us.

He had finally got something sorted out.

All in all though a massive failure from passenger assist.

I recorded the whole journey on my wheelchair cam and will be publishing it on YouTube

My YouTube is www.woodys.tube

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