Let’s make life a bit easier for disabled travellers at Waverley station - Susan Morrison

Last week, a good pal got one of those sudden phone calls we all dread. He had to travel south at once. A bag was hastily packed and tickets bought for a train, leaving within the hour. All that was needed was the taxi. Which failed to materialise.
A little drop-off area must be a possibility for disabled passengers at Waverley station, says Susan MorrisonA little drop-off area must be a possibility for disabled passengers at Waverley station, says Susan Morrison
A little drop-off area must be a possibility for disabled passengers at Waverley station, says Susan Morrison

Fortunately, I was available to chauffeur. My friend is visually impaired, which for once was a blessing for him, since the best way to describe my driving that day would be “Tijuana Taxi Driver”.

We made it to Waverley in time. My friend isn’t totally familiar with the layout. I couldn’t just dump him and leave waving ta-ta with a merry laugh.

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Now, I don’t have a blue badge. So I did the thing that we all hate, and parked in what might be a disabled space. Hard to tell. There’s no signage. I just hoped I didn’t meet myself standing next to the car when I got back. Yes, I am that judgmental.

We navigated through a sort of “Crystal Maze” assault course, involving speaking lifts, aerial walkways and, for someone with limited vision and mobility, a bit of a walk to the concourse.

He made the train and started his sad journey south.

Once upon a time cars with disabled passengers could actually drive right into the station.

It was accessible in every sense of the word. We should have known it wouldn’t last. There was a revamp. The phrase “terrorist attack” featured highly. Barriers appeared. Easy access was denied.

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Ah, but in these enlightened times we have passenger assistance. I called the helplines, for future information. Won’t do that again. Life’s too short. I managed to complete a really difficult Wordle waiting for an answer on one.

A little further sleuthing uncovered the Network Rail website.

Information for disabled passengers includes this paragraph: “You can request an assistance booking in advance – now up to two hours before your journey is due to start… request an assistance booking via Passenger Assist, please click here.”

Go on. Click. That’s right, a missing page and a busted link. We also hit Waverley less than two hours before departure, on account of it being an emergency.

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This isn’t good enough for disabled travellers. When that banshee phone rings, there really isn’t time for checking websites, hanging on for calls to be answered or even booking a later train so you can get assistance within that two hour window.

It’s pack and go, and sometimes their non-blue-badged friends have to get them not just to the station, but into the booking hall, which means leaving their cars.

Ok, so here’s an idea. Pop a Network Rail employee in a hi-vis jacket. Call them Parking Management Consultants. Good job title.

When passengers arrive who need a little help from their friends, they can raise the barrier and let them in. As a solution it's tech-free, needs no pre-booking or fannying about with non-existent links on a website.

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How will we pay for this? Easy. Network Rails’ boss made £590,000 last year. Let’s shave a bit off that to make life easier for disabled travellers.

A little drop-off area must be a possibility. There’s at least one elderly couple called Charles and Camilla who always have their car waiting for them in the station.