- Richmond – Vauxhall – Richmond
The thing about London is that it’s a 24/7 city. As you go out of the centre it becomes less so, but there’s still lots going on every day of the week. Just look to London Underground for confirmation of this. They are looking to run a 24 hour service on some lines.
London is in permanent conflict between people wanting to get out and have fun and engineers needing to shut lines so they can maintain or upgrade them. Whilst it’s possible to clean, tidy and perform minor jobs in the brief overnight period available, any major periods of work can’t be done during the week. The end result of this is that travelling at the weekend is invariably difficult at best. I find myself, as a transport user, planning my weekends based on where I can get to rather than what I’d like to do.
This year had been particularly bad with a lot of work at Waterloo and between Waterloo and Richmond. Now that seems to be over there’s week after week of work at Twickenham to replace the footbridge (shame they’ve not seen fit to install a lift at the station which services national and international rugby.) In short I can’t remember the last time I travelled freely from Richmond at the weekend. At least today there are regular trains into London, even if it’s a revised service.
I boarded the train easily enough and I assume the call was made to get me off at Vauxhall. Sadly no-one showed up, so my travel companion had to go find the guard, otherwise who knows where I’d have ended up (I did once end up in sidings, but that’s another story.)
This sadly isn’t unusual at Vauxhall. Only recently did the station get dragged into the 20th Century with the installation of lifts, and I think the staff are still getting to grips with dealing with wheelchairs. This was confirmed on the way back.
Regular rail travellers may have noticed that most station platforms have more than one ramp. Often these look identical but in reality they are subtly different to fit specific types of train carriage. For the disabled traveller this can result in the perfect storm of the wrong ramp, the wrong train and a staff member who’s training didn’t cover this and who lacks the common sense to apply some thought to the process.
So it was at Vauxhall on the return journey trying to work out why the pins on the ramp didn’t fit the holes on the train. Experience tells me that at this point the quickest solution is to take over, against huge protests from staff, and place the ramp myself in an unsanctioned but safe manner. Once they can ‘test’ it, ie stand on the ramp, then they are happy to let me board. I like to think they’ve learned something, but I suspect this is just my eternally optimistic nature overcoming my inner realist.