Birmingham – Euston – Willesden Junction – Richmond
It’s interesting, but not really surprising, that when travelling by rail the quality of service you receive as a disabled person, the attentiveness, seems to be inversely proportional to station size. Of course this is a general rule, and there are exceptions, but it does seen to hold true in my experience.
As usual getting on the train is the easy bit, after all you’re in the station, mobile and can find assistance. Even though it’s a big station I’ve always found Birmingham New Street to be well organised and reliable. I used to know lots of the staff but not any more. Even so this doesn’t seem to have affected the quality of service I get.
Euston is a different story. I always end up waiting to get off the train, and there are often reports that other wheelchair users also have the same problem. I’ve been told by Network Rail staff, who provide the assistance service, that their SLA (Service Level Agreement) specifies meeting trains within five minutes of arrival. My experience is that it’s more often ten or more minutes and so it was today. It would help a lot if they published their SLA so at least us travellers knew what to expect, and could raise it when the SLA wasn’t achieved.
Hanging around waiting in the train doorway meant I was really cutting it fine to get my connection on the Overground. Fortunately the ramp wrangler, who works for London Overground not Network Rail, really pulled out all the stops and got me on board. The wrangler at Willesden was also brilliant. He was waiting for me as the train arrived and helped me get across the station quickly so that I managed to catch the connection to Richmond. Of course Willesden is a relatively small station, and it’s run by TfL.
I might have guessed things were going too well. When we arrived at Richmond there was no sign of anyone. If my travel companion hadn’t gone to find assistance I might still have been there waiting.
Taking guards off trains doesn’t affect service in any way. It must be true, London Overground say so.
Sometimes the relationship between station size and service level just doesn’t survive scrutiny.