Guards make a difference.

  • 26/7/14
  • Richmond – Willesden Jct – Euston – Return

In November last year London Overground removed guards from all their trains. At the time I wrote to Peter Austin, MD of LOROL, and received a response assuring me that service would not be affected. I wasn’t convinced and as it turns out, rightly so as I’ve been proved a few times now.

I arrived at Richmond for the Overground service to Willesden with five minutes to spare, but couldn’t find help so missed it. There are fewer passengers and so fewer staff at the weekend. I understand the logic, but it doesn’t help me.

I caught the next train, and changed at Willesden but predictably nobody met me when I arrived at Euston, meaning my travel companion (again) ran off to find somebody whilst I firmly but politely declined all efforts from fellow passengers to lift the wheelchair from the train. People don’t realise how heavy it is, and just how easily it comes apart.

Eventually the assistant turned up and I was able to escape, with his warble of “No-one told me” echoing in my ears. (Ker-ching). I did try to persuade him to share the platform contact number with me, but to no avail.

The first half of the return journey later went really well, for me at least. The lone staff member at Willesden was rushed off his feet and highly stressed but still managed to meet me and help me transfer for the final leg of the journey. The second leg went less well.

Being a campaigner for accessible transport in London I’ve met with a lot of people with a wide variety of impairments. This has made me sensitive to problems and issues even when they don’t directly affect me. Most commonly this is absent or incorrect audio-visual announcements. I noticed almost immediately that these weren’t working, something I was hypersensitive to because of the interaction I’d had on the platform with a lady who was deaf.

The icing on the cake was arriving at Richmond to a distinct lack of staff or ramp. A fifteen minute fruitless search by my friend showed the station bereft of staff, even in their usual hiding places. Fortunately I managed to stop the driver as she went to her cab to take the train out.

LOROL policy is, apparently, drivers don’t use ramps. I’m sure Kirk & Picard knew everything about their ships, but LOROL excludes ramps from, I’m sure otherwise comprehensive, driver training.

To her credit, our driver was extremely apologetic, and very eager to help, and as a veteran Overground traveller I was able to show her where the ramp was, how to use it & how to put it away afterwards. Damn, I’ve got to get me a T-Key!

This is an exact repeat of a previous incident and also contrary to Peter Austin’s letter. You won’t be surprised, dear Reader, to know that I’ve made a formal complaint, again. I’ll let you know what happens.



About Alan

I'm an Economist, Geek, Campaigner & wheelchair user who's been using all forms of public transport for 20+ years.
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