Everybody’s Late.


Richmond – Waterloo – Regent St – Richmond

Anyone who uses public transport, especially in London, would recognise the old idiom “Expect the Unexpected.” This is part of life’s rich tapestry, and to be honest I quite like the challenge. Routine is great, but thinking on my feet adds to life’s rich tapestry. The problem is travelling as a wheelchair user can add a level of complication.

I got to Richmond station easily enough, but the departure board was all over the place. Everything going to or from Waterloo was delayed, and getting worse in front of my eyes. I didn’t have to wait long to find out why. Some numpty had decided that a stroll along the tracks would be a good idea, so no trains were running until the line could be cleared.

One of the great things about Richmond station is that it’s a terminus for the Overground and Underground as well as South West Trains. Both the Overground and Underground weren’t affected by Joe T Idiot wandering the rails, so many of my fellow travellers wandered off to alternative transport. This is much harder to do as a disabled traveller. As well as rearranging the assistance at this end, you need to ensure there’s help, and access, at the destination. My problem was also that I’d booked a mini cab 24 hours ahead for the last mile from Waterloo, which would be a nightmare to rearrange.

And so I waited…

And waited a bit more…

And then things started to move. Joe T Idiot had either moved on or being arrested, but either way the track was now open.

The first train to arrive didn’t stop, sailing straight through the station at high speed. I only hope no-one needed to get off. I can’t blame SW Trains for wanting to make up time, and the next train arrived just a few minutes later so my delay wasn’t made that much worse.

Of course by now I was seriously delayed and my cab was already waiting for me at the other end. I had to do something to make sure it was still there when I eventually arrived. Fortunately this is exactly what mobile phones were invented for (and not Candycrush or filming Happy Slapping assaults as some people believe). I have no idea how I coped without my mobile, though this isn’t surprising as I’ve had one every day for nearly 25 years and my memory doesn’t go back that far.

Using the number in the “Your taxi is on it’s way” text I let the driver know what was happening and he seemed happy to wait. Unfortunately Waterloo aren’t happy for people to wait, so he ended up driving in circles for 20 minutes as I got closer and closer. Once I arrived at Waterloo we hooked up quite quickly and got to my destination in Regent St late, but not so late that I missed my appointment. The consequence of all this was that the additional ‘waiting charge’ more than doubled the cost of the journey.

For the return trip I’d already decided it would be late and cold so I’d booked a mini cab for the entire journey 24 hours in advance. The first problem was my meeting finished early. Although I called the company and asked to get picked up sooner, I wasn’t optimistic of success. They did agree to try but we both knew only one accessible cab was working so que sera sera. Predictably it turned out that not only did it not arrive earlier, things actually got worse. The venue we were at was closing so I was ushered out to wait on the street, in February, at night. Of course the cab then turned up 25 minutes after the originally booked time, due to the previous job overrunning. Just to put the icing on the cake, the cab that turned up was not tall enough to accommodate my new wheelchair. Given the time of night, and my close resemblance to an icicle, I decided to remove the headrest and squeeze into the cab, but I did make a note for next time to be more specific about the vehicle type.

Strangely, although I got charged a ‘waiting charge’ when I was late, there isn’t a corresponding ‘waiting discount’ when the cab is late. I wonder why that is?


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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