Blind Midlothian woman feared she would fall in front of speeding train after assistance failed to turn up

Samantha Gough booked assistance but no-one turned up to help her
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A blind footballer from Midlothian says she feared falling in front of a speeding train after rail staff failed to show up to help her.

Samantha Gough – who plays blind football for England despite being a Scot – booked assistance before starting her journey at Edinburgh Waverley, but when she got to Doncaster station, en-route to a competition, no-one was there to help.

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Samantha, 20, from Lasswade, who attended the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh, said: “It was a nightmare, a really horrendous situation to be in. People have died falling on the tracks before and I thought it was about to happen to me. I was in full panic mode and there was not one person there to help despite me booking assistance before I set out. I waited for about five minutes and then really began to panic."

Blind footballer Samantha Gough described how she feared falling under a speeding train after being left on a station platform without assistance.Blind footballer Samantha Gough described how she feared falling under a speeding train after being left on a station platform without assistance.
Blind footballer Samantha Gough described how she feared falling under a speeding train after being left on a station platform without assistance.

She said she had no idea how close she was to the platform edge because the station did not have tactile paving – a system of textured ground surface indicators on platforms to assist the visually impaired.

“Fast trains were screaming past with the wind hitting me and despite screaming on the platform for help, no one heard. I called my mum at home in Scotland and she had to phone the police. A few trains later, a guard got off and asked if I was ok and took me to station staff. They said my assistance request was not on the system but I had been told at Edinburgh that staff were phoning Doncaster to inform them that I was on the way.”

Samantha’s story comes as train operators are preparing to cut 2,000 staff and close train station ticket offices. Rail companies have already outlined proposals to make thousands of job cuts by October, even though the UK Government is yet to approve the planned ticket office closures.

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Samantha said: “I was travelling on to an event in Conisbrough. I was just left outside Doncaster station in a distressed state and had to wait for someone to come and get me from Conisbrough. It is a disgrace and has really knocked my confidence. It has really made me think twice about going anywhere without support.”

Samantha has been visually impaired from birth due to cerebral visual impairment – a condition which means the eyes are healthy but the brain’s visual pathways do not work, resulting in sight loss.  She competes in a number of sports and plays for the England women’s blind football side as Scotland does not have a team in the sport. Last year she competed in the European Para Youth Games.

She said: “We complained about this situation and we were offered two first class tickets as compensation. But I don’t want to go near their trains after my experience so it completely misses the point. This is the most extreme situation I have faced on the train. Sports people need to use the rail network all the time to get to training and events. There is a real issue here about accessibility and fairness. It really is a disgrace.”

Midlothian MP Owen Thompson has written to LNER demanding action. He said: “I was extremely concerned to hear about this constituent’s traumatic experiences. It is simply unacceptable. I find it hard to comprehend how something like this can happen in this country in the 21st century.

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“There is a real issue about accessibility, equality and fairness here. Blind and partially sighted people should be able to travel safely and comfortably at all times. I wrote to LNER a couple of weeks ago and have still to receive a response. I am concerned that tactile paving is not an essential at every station in the UK.

“I do not think that the Secretary of State for Transport’s statement that tactile paving will appear in all mainline railway stations in Britain by the end of 2025 at the latest is good enough. Samantha has my full support. We have already met with Samantha and her mum to hear their concerns and I will stay in touch as we battle to get this resolved.”

Craig Spalding, chief executive of Sight Scotland, said: “We’re deeply concerned at Sam’s experience and the dangerous situation she was left in. Being left without any assistance and on a platform with no tactile paving highlights just how inaccessible travelling can be for people with visual impairments. Sadly, train journeys like this are not uncommon for blind and partially sighted people.”

An LNER spokesperson said: " Safety remains our top priority. Our customers are at the heart of everything we do. We welcome feedback and have already been in contact with the customer and will be making contact once again. We continue to work hard to ensure everyone enjoys the best possible experience when travelling with us. “

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