- Richmond – Waterloo – Taxi to Camden
- Kings Cross – Earls Court – Richmond
There’s no denying that travelling with a wheelchair restricts your options. Having said that, doing your research properly, and applying some (very) creative thinking, does give you choices. For me it’s a balancing act between travelling time, cost, convenience, and comfort. The choices I make and the decisions I reach vary day-to-day depending on all sorts of things, but today rush hour and travelling across central London were foremost in my mind when I had a light-bulb moment.
Regular readers will know that the the fastest way for me to get to London is Richmond to Waterloo. This is great for access to the south bank but a nightmare to cross London. My light-bulb moment was to call Addison Lee. I last travelled with them two years ago when out of their entire fleet they had two accessible cars. I thought it a long shot but I called 24 hours ahead and they were happy to accept a booking for 9.15 am.
So as I arrived at Waterloo on the train my phone tweebled with a text message from Addison Lee to say that the taxi would be late, but was on its way. Never-mind, my meeting was 15 minutes distant and wasn’t for another hour. I was sanguine.
Over the next 25 minutes, each Addison Lee car that arrived and left with some other lucky passenger carried with it some little parcel of my confidence. The problem with needing specialist transport is that it’s not easy to substitute if it breaks down or is stuck in traffic. The minutes continued to tick by as my mood turned to resignation despite the reassuring if not entirely helpful updates that continued to arrive on my phone. Finally, the car arrived, 30 minutes late and extremely apologetic, leaving 15 minutes to get across town. Needless to say, I was late for the meeting.
What was the meeting? With Network Rail on improving access in stations and onto trains. Somewhat ironic since that was the only bit of the journey that worked.
I decided, given my experience so far, and because it was a wet cold day, to venture underground for the return journey. As I’ve said before, both Kings Cross and Earl’s Court are step-free so are technically accessible without assistance. However, London Underground are happy to provide assistance if requested and John provided that assistance with sterling effort, ensuring lifts at Earls Court were working and escorting me onto the train after ensuring that someone would meet me at the other end. I know he made the request to meet me, because he did it on the radio, standing in front of me. I also know that his control heard him because I heard them say so. What I don’t know is where that message stalled because by the time I reached Earls court there was ne’er a soul to be seen.
Fortunately, I was able to find assistance in the ticket hall after making my way up from the platform. and it was them that helped me onto the final leg of my journey onto Richmond.
In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t a bad journey. Yes, there were delays, but these never come as a surprise and I wasn’t very late. Yes, assistance was missing, but that was no more than mildly inconvenient. But it just goes to show, again, the variety of things that can go wrong.