The Visit That Wasn’t


Richmond – Westminster – Return

Lots of trips out lately. In fact so many that I’m not keeping up with regaling you, dear and valued reader with my exploits. That’s not to say that suddenly a transport nirvana has been achieved, but truth be told there haven’t been any major disasters (or triumphs.)

But the Screw Up Fairy is always waiting in the wings to make a surprise guest appearance.

For a little while a friend of mine has been a guest of St Thomas’ Hospital. I was already heading into Richmond so decided to jump on the tube and head to Westminster to see her.

The bus trip was unremarkable and I fortunately bumped into the ramp wrangler as I entered Richmond station. He promised to come and put me on the train, once it arrived.

Sadly, when it did arrive, it was the old D stock so I waited patiently while the other passengers boarded. And I waited. And waited. With moments to spare, and to the relief of my rising panic, wrangler arrived with ramp and I got on. We cut it so fine the closing door nearly clipped my rear wheels. I think the driver had been waiting.

As we rattled and clattered our way across West London in the old bone shaker more and more people got on. As often happens at the weekend by the time we reached Westminster it was akin to rush hour, which makes moving a wheelchair a delicate, careful operation.

As a precaution I put my chair in the doorway and waited for a ramp wrangler.  I brushed off repeated offers of assistance from other well meaning but misguided passengers. The horrified looks on faces as the doors closed and trapped me are always entertaining. After a pause the door opened before trying once more to close, and again failing. The driver’s response to this is to threaten, over the tannoy, to take the train out of service if the door in the rear coach isn’t allowed to close.

What he fundamentally fails to understand is that he might be in charge, but I am in control and I will not be bullied or cajoled when the fault lies with TfL for not properly providing a ramp.

And so we find ourselves in a modern Mexican Stand Off. The driver repeatedly opens and closes the door, regularly reissuing his threat. I stay right where I am, apologising to those around me who are for the most part understanding and sympathetic.

Six times the door slams into me before my travel companion reaches the now frustrated driver and explains, in short, simple words that this is not an argument he is going to win. He concedes and radios for a wrangler.

After a few minutes the wrangler arrives proffering sincere apologies, I leave the train and the train departs, about 8 minutes late.

My apologies to all those affected by delays on the District and Circle lines. It was me.

It turns out that all this was unnecessary. When I reached St Thomas’ I discovered my friend had been discharged the previous evening. Ho hum.

On the incident free return trip I bumped in to the wrangler again. He confessed that he had known I was coming, he’d just gone to the wrong platform.

Basically people are a problem.


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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