Frustration, thy name is planning.


Richmond – Camden Road – Parkway – Return

Today’s trip was interesting, not for the journey itself, but for the events bookending the journey. Neither event could be described as new. They are both extremely annoying and highlight very different problems that affect the lives of disabled people on a daily basis.

The reason for the trip is a perfectly normal one which thousands of people do every week without thinking about it. I wanted to go out to a gig on a Saturday night, though in this case it was slightly unusual in that I knew the band.

<plug> It’s a really good Skiffle band called Terry & Gerry. You can find an example of them on Youtube here. Go see them if you get the chance.</plug>

The first thing I always have to do is to check the accessibility of the venue, so I contacted them. Yes, there were a small number of steps, but I was assured a ramp was available. We’ll come back to this later.

The second thing is to sort out how to get there. The TfL route planner (available here) is the first sensible starting point, especially for bits of London you’re not familiar with. I’ve mentioned before how it gets easily confused if you ask it for anything other than the blindingly simple and sure enough today it didn’t fail to disappoint. The process went something like this, though I’ve simplified it for narrative purposes because the full details are just too tedious and frustrating.

Journey Richmond to Camden Step free
Result What? 1½hrs? 3 changes and a 37 minute walk?

Okay, I know I can get to Victoria easily. New search.

Journey Victoria to Camden Step free
Result Better. Still a 40 minute Bus ride, but at least only a short walk.

Now, how long to get to Victoria?

Journey Richmond to Victoria Step free
Result WTF? Over an hour on buses and Underground?

Now I know that’s wrong. What happens if I specify National Rail services? I know the stations have ramps, so I won’t worry about accessibility options on the search.

Journey Richmond to Victoria National Rail Only
Result 30 minutes. That’s better

Wait, what happens if I try the original search with no accessibility options?

Journey Richmond to Camden No options

Why didn’t you tell me this in the first place? I know both stations are accessible with ramps? Why don’t you, you useless piece of (BLEEP)?

So prep-ed as far as I could be, I set out and the journey was pleasantly uneventful. Trying a new station is always a cause for some small doubts but Camden Road was straightforward and the Ramp Wrangler was really very helpful. He did press me gently but firmly to return before 11pm, somewhat before I intended and definitely before the last train, but I did keep this in mind. As it turns out this wasn’t an issue, but I’m spoiling the ending here.

I got to The Dublin Castle, the venue for the gig, and sure enough there was a small step. What there wasn’t was a ramp. None of the staff knew where it should be or could find it. Their best efforts staring at the step, or calling it ‘just one step’ surprisingly didn’t shrink it or cause it to evaporate! My gigging was over before it even began.

I caught up with the friend I’d gone to see and we decided instead to grab a bite to eat before he went on stage. Heading down the road we found The Earl of Camden. Although there was a flight of steps at the front door we were directed to the level access at the rear. After 5 minutes of waiting we were told that the door was locked and the keys were missing. I hope it wasn’t a fire exit!

Strike two!

Finally we made it to The Spread Eagle. There was a single step in, but my kerb climber coped with this so we were able to feast and partake of ale and so recover at least some of what was otherwise a pretty poor night out.

And so I found myself back at Camden Road waiting for the train home much earlier than anticipated. Again the ramp wrangler provided sterling support. In fact the only piece of good fortune I had all night was that shortly after my train departed a passing freight train failed causing all subsequent services through the station to be cancelled. Had I been any later, given my luck for the evening, I may not have got home… ever!

I’m sure there’s a conclusion to be drawn from this trip. I just don’t think it’s a happy one, so I’m going to quietly draw a veil over the whole sorry expedition and move on to the next adventure.

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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