Richmond – Norbiton – Kingston – Richmond
All the significant National Rail stations have staff on duty. Sometimes this is only in the ticket office or during certain peak hours, or on many smaller stations, no staff at all. This can be a problem as a disabled passenger needing assistance but most train companies still employ staff whom you can turn to.
Norbiton is one such station without staff. But fortunately for me, the guard on the outward journey was happy to help with the ramp. At least in part because he’d known since Richmond that this was necessary.
The problem is, how to deal with the return journey. Booking 24 hours in advance is impossible because you just know how long the hospital appointment will take. I was mulling this conundrum over as I approached the station platform. With extreme good fortune my arrival coincided with that of the train and I was able to appeal to the guard’s better nature directly for assistance which he gladly proffered. I felt rather guilty as that mean that I also needed his assistance two and a half minutes down the line when I needed to get off at Kingston. But again, he seemed to render assistance.
With one final piece of good fortune I somehow managed to catch the train home later in the day, even though it had been waiting on the platform when I arrived. Another example of the Kingston staff going above and beyond to board me when I hadn’t really given them enough time.
There is a rumour going around that as part of the next franchise negotiations SouthWest trains are keen to run driver-only services. This is a disaster for passengers and in general, and especially those needing assistance. You only need to look as far as falling service level on the Overground for examples. If this rumour is true, then we all need to do anything in our power to stop it happening.