Balance of Power

18/8/15

Richmond – Vauxhall – Return

Another day, another trip, and I’m quite encouraged that there’s not much to tell.

I think there must be something about the bus route that I live on. There is often a buggy in the wheelchair space, but very rarely more than one. Perhaps it’s that there’s 12 buses an hour all heading into Richmond. Whatever the reason I got to share the space again today, but it got sorted without fuss, bother or any resistance.

Passing through Richmond station made me realise just how familiar I am. Before the train arrived I had a long conversation with the Duty Manager about the forthcoming Rugby World Cup, and a more general one with the ramp wrangler. I’m there quite a bit so this isn’t a surprise, but the Guard on the train also recognised me enough to talk to which says something given how many guards there are on this route. I’m just not sure what.

I got met at Vauxhall fine. When the lifts first became operational about a year ago, it was touch and go whether the help would be there, but to be fair to them they’ve really raised their game and are pretty reliable now.

The return trip was equally boring, or at least nearly. The gate guard at Vauxhall, when I returned, seemed decidedly vague and uncertain. Any attempt by me to get him to commit to providing a ramp was met with largely inaudible mutterings, but he did point me at the right lift so I decided to trust him. Although the platform was devoid of staff when I reached it, a wrangler appeared just before the train did.

The final stop at Richmond was the only really disappointing incident on the trip. As happens sometimes the wrangler who greeted me had brought the wrong type of ramp for the train. This would cause the H&S fairy to throw a hissy fit if she knew about it, but I’m usually happy to proceed, providing a bit more care and attention is used than normal. Sadly this was lacking.

There’s an adage I use in situations like these.

“They’re in charge, but I’m in control”

Whilst the authority might lie with the staff, I can’t be made to do anything I don’t want to, or feel unsafe doing. Most importantly the train isn’t going anywhere until I’m on the platform, and every minute of delay incurs a large fine. This means the staff are motivated to complete the job which puts me, the traveller, in the position of power. A useful thing to remember.

The wrangler put the ramp down, but placed it on the step of the train, rather than in the doorway, and couldn’t see why I was unwilling to ‘bump’ down onto an unsecured ramp. Fortunately, after a brief exchange, he reseated it enough that I was happy to wheel down it.

Having had a pretty easy journey I decided not to tempt fate by catching a bus home, choosing instead to walk/wheel. Sometime the trick to successful travelling, like gambling, is knowing when to quit while you’re ahead.

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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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