Heading North


Richmond – Earls Court – Kings Cross – Newcastle
One of the Dalai Lama’s principals for living is every year to go somewhere you haven’t been before. When he said this, I don’t think he had Newcastle in mind, but I think it probably does count as a different culture.

The familiar part of the journey is Richmond to Kings Cross on the underground. As usual, although it would be quicker to change at Hammersmith, the lack of an available ramp means changing at Earls Court. This involves a decent walk and a lift journey to change between the District and Piccadilly lines. Inconvenient when you’re carrying a loaded rucksack in an electric chair, quite a bit harder if you’re not fortunate enough to have such power.

Of course, I checked the journey before leaving home, so was a bit miffed when I discovered the lift between the ticket hall and Kings Cross concourse was out of order. Fortunately there are other lifts available at Kings Cross, they just involve covering a little extra distance.

The new Kings Cross concourse is a very impressive space, light and airy, but like many of the large London stations, there are always crowds milling around presenting sometimes mobile obstacles to dodge and avoid like a giant game of pinball as you make your way to the assistance desk. I have no idea why they haven’t organised a decent reception with waiting space and seats like at Euston or Birmingham New Street. The staff at the desk were good enough to efficiently hook me up with some assistance but it’s quite a long way then to get from there to the train. I’m glad I don’t have to push, but my batteries certainly did get a workout.

Wheelchair sign placed over a small gap between wall and table.

Wheelchair sign placed over a small gap between wall and table.

I have on the whole, found the staff of East Coast trains to be friendly and helpful. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for their 30 year old rolling stock which has tight turns, narrow doors, and not enough space. I assume the sign shown below has been put there by some jobsworth not thinking the problem through, rather than as a serious suggestion for a very skinny wheelchair user.

absurd sign

Sign says “Users should position the rear of their wheelchair against this wall and apply their breaks.”

The staff at Newcastle were efficient and got me off promptly. My hosts had even sorted out transport to get me to the hotel in the form of an accessible taxi, once I’d actually managed to find my way out of the station and into the car park. Fortunate really, as the weather welcomed us north by bucketing down. (Raintype 232).


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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