Easy Come, Somewhat Harder to Go.


Richmond – Westminster – Return

Sometimes I’m lucky enough to be invited to speak with influential people who make decisions or inform opinion. I always enjoy when this involves a trip to Portcullis House as this is a very pleasant and impressive space. More often than not the journeys into these meetings involve one or more cock-ups or failures which give me something very immediate to use as an example. Unusually today’s trip to meet with David Lammy MP provided me with no useful material at all, until it was too late.

To get to Westminster from Richmond is a direct District line train. Sadly the shiny new S-type train I caught the other day was nowhere to be seen, so I needed assistance onto the familiar ‘old rattly’ and then off at the other end, but this all worked seamlessly.

The return trip didn’t work so well. I started by asking for help at the ticket barrier, incidently from the only visible staff member on the concourse. He radioed through to control to ensure someone was available to get me off at my destination, Hammersmith. The only problem with this was that there is no ramp at Hammersmith and I’d actually said I was going to Richmond. With a little prompting, and some apologies, he corrected his error and we started waiting…. and waiting. Unusually Richmond were apparently not picking up the phone. (It’s so hard to properly convey sarcasm in written text.) Whilst I waited I watched a constant stream of London’s travelling public bombard the gate guard with requests, not only with faulty tickets and passes but also for route information, asking for Oyster Card holders and a good number of requests for the location of the ticket office, which has of course been closed.

Eventually news came over the radio that Richmond had been contacted & I was free to travel. At this point the gate guard, as if by magic, transformed into a ramp wrangler before my very eyes and led me off towards the lift, leaving the concourse unstaffed as far as I could see. I apologise to any disabled traveller, or anyone else, left fruitlessly seeking assistance.

I boarded the Richmond bound train which was hot and stuffy. I was so focused on my discomfort that I didn’t notice when, somewhere between Victoria and South Kensington, it morphed into a train to Ealing Broadway. The signs were incredibly subtle. So subtle in fact that I wasn’t sure it had happened until we arrived at Earl’s Court and a ramp wrangler appeared.

Apparently a fire alert had closed Richmond station causing the train to be diverted. I ‘detrained’ to consider my options. There are buses to Richmond from Earl’s Court, but they’re not quick. The ramp wrangler suggested I carry on to Hammersmith by tube and take the bus from there. This would have been an excellent suggestion, except that there’s no ramp at Hammersmith which I pointed out. While it’s not reasonable to expect TfL staff to know everything, it is concerning that a passenger has to teach such a vital piece of accessibility information about a station so close.

Whilst we debated the merits of the various options his radio crackled into life and advised him to suggest the passenger waits as it was likely Richmond would open again shortly. Fortunately the message was conveyed highly professionally as the passenger, me, heard every word.

I used the time profitably to give travel advice to another disabled passenger. It was obvious to me that she was struggling and somewhat lost. This was confirmed when I overheard her making a phone call to say she would be at her destination in an hour or two. Her intended destination was Hammersmith, less than ten minutes away. It transpired she had come from Clapham Junction, but was very unsure of her stops or travel time. I can’t believe no one noticed her struggle, which only leaves me wondering why someone, especially staff, hadn’t offered her help.

Word quickly came through that Richmond had reopened and I jumped on the next service, along with my new friend. I took the opportunity of the ride to slip her a card with Transport for All‘s website on it. A shameless plug for a great charity who, amongst other things, help disabled and older people plan journeys in London and also help complain if it goes pear shaped. (Interest declaration – I’m a member.)

I arrived at Richmond, having left my new friend at Hammersmith very happy. There was hardly any wait at all for the ramp to arrive, wielded by the wrangler from London Overground. I can see no rhyme nor reason to which company meets incoming passengers at Richmond. I guess it doesn’t matter, so long as someone does.

So again I end up at home, eventually, with assistance from a few folk and a good tale to tell, but one that sadly unfolded after the ideal opportunity to tell it. I guess I’ll just have to save it for next time.


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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