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“Please help me persuade First Great Western Railway to make wheelchair users' lives easier.” – Anna Scutt

Description

Anna Scutt

I travel often on FGW trains with my partner who is a wheelchair user. I am ambulant disabled. We book the 'companion seat' for me, which is two seats away from the wheelchair space. A companion is often a carer for the wheelchair-user and we cannot be of any help if we are seated away from the space. It is also by the window so I cannot even get out easily to help. There are two seats opposite the space, but these are reserved for priority disabled people. Being disabled myself, I understand the need for priority seating, but please, please switch the priority and companion seats over so carers can do their jobs. I have written letters about this, but never received a reply. I called the assistance line to make a complaint, and was told the change would be made when the wheelchair-space was moved from carriage E to carriage C. This has not happened. Please help make our journeys easier.

Problem History

  • 1 Anna Scutt reported the issue on FixMyTransport. close 23:28 30 Nov 2011
  • 2 Anna Scutt wrote to First Great Western Railway close 23:28 30 Nov 2011

    Here is the letter that Anna Scutt wrote.

    Seating for companion to a wheelchair user

    I travel often on FGW trains with my partner who is a wheelchair user. I am ambulant disabled. We book the 'companion seat' for me, which is two seats away from the wheelchair space. A companion is often a carer for the wheelchair-user and we cannot be of any help if we are seated away from the space. It is also by the window so I cannot even get out easily to help. There are two seats opposite the space, but these are reserved for priority disabled people. Being disabled myself, I understand the need for priority seating, but please, please switch the priority and companion seats over so carers can do their jobs. I have written letters about this, but never received a reply. I called the assistance line to make a complaint, and was told the change would be made when the wheelchair-space was moved from carriage E to carriage C. This has not happened. Please help make our journeys easier.

  • 3 Myf Nixon commented close 10:00 01 Dec 2011

    Hello Anna,
    This sounds like a very practical suggestion and one which would ideally be reflected not just across all FGW trains, but all trains everywhere.

    I'll make sure we spread the link to this page on our various social media channels (Facebook and Twitter, etc), and meanwhile, any other people you can get to add their name to this page will help show there's a real need for this change.

    If you do not get a constructive reply from First Great Western this time, there are other steps we can suggest, such as getting the help of your local councillor, but let's wait and see how they reply.

    anorak
    admin
  • 4 Anna Scutt commented close 11:49 01 Dec 2011

    Thanks for your support, Myf Nixon. I'll spead the word through Facebook and LinkedIn too.

  • 5 Ruth Martin commented close 12:17 01 Dec 2011

    I travel this route a lot as well, and it does seem like a problem that would be easy and simple to fix without inconveniencing people who use the priority disabled seats.

  • 6 C Taylor commented close 12:43 01 Dec 2011

    Travel is an enabling feature of our lives. To make wheelchair users' experience a negative one appears to me to over look their rights to civic and social engagement.
    Perhaps FGW could review their policies in light of these comments and address these issues with re-training their staff?

  • 7 Matthew Rogers commented close 14:04 01 Dec 2011

    Sounds like a great campaign Anna, which I'm sure everyone will support, good luck getting it out there. Matthew Rogers

  • 8 First Group Response responded to Anna Scutt close 15:47 01 Dec 2011
    Thank you for contacting First Great Western. We confirm receipt of your e-mail and aim to forward a full response within 5 working days. If you have a more urgent issue that needs resolving please telephone on 08457 000125 where we will try to give a faster resolution.

    Please note that you will not be able to reply direct to this email, however if you wish to contact us further by email then please use the address below.

    [email address]
  • 9 David Ivall commented close 17:41 01 Dec 2011

    It doesn't seem a difficult problem to resolve, if those responsible have a little goodwill and sympathy for their customers.

  • 10 Dave H commented close 20:19 01 Dec 2011

    There might be a detail to take up with DfT and train builders (and owners) who manage to specify internal layouts which do not work well for those with special seating needs. It is not helped by the fact that HST's have been retro-fitted with a lot of the accessibility kit, and compromises may have been made to fit the space available.

    There is surely other 'priority seating' within the train as the % of this required pro rata in a train means that it has to be more than one seat in one carriage, the detail is in allocating those seats effectively.

    It may be that use of SMS/twitter and communication to on-train staff before boarding is an area to develop which could also make travellers who may need extra time/assistance to get on/off the train are expected and advised on making this work.

  • 11 Anna Scutt commented close 20:40 02 Dec 2011

    Thanks for replying Dave H, but it really is not about train builders. It is a simple case of switching the bookings for the priority and companion seats around on their resevation system . The wheel chair space itself is quite big enough.

  • 12 caroline gallear commented close 20:52 02 Dec 2011

    Please make this simple change! Most people agree that public transport should be better used, so let's make it easier to do so.

  • 13 Aline Turner commented close 14:29 04 Dec 2011

    This seems an eminently sensible idea and there seems no reason why this could not be implemented quickly and easily. I suggest Great Western and other rail operators sort this out now.
    Aline Turner

  • 14 Anna Scutt wrote to First Great Western Railway close 12:27 20 Dec 2011

    On 30th November I wrote to you asking for the companion seat for the wheelchair space to be switched with the priority seats to enable carers to help wheelchair users. On 1st December, you replied saying my email had been received and you aimed to give me a full response within 5 working days. It is now 20th December and I have not received a response.

    I look forward to receiving a favourable and prompt response to my request.

    Thank you very much.

    Anna Scutt

  • 15 Anna Scutt added an update close 12:28 20 Dec 2011

    No response received yet from FGW. Promised response within 5 days on 1st Dec! Emailed again today.

  • 16 First Group Response responded to Anna Scutt close 12:36 20 Dec 2011
    Thank you for contacting First Great Western. We confirm receipt of your e-mail and aim to forward a full response within 5 working days. If you have a more urgent issue that needs resolving please telephone on 08457 000125 where we will try to give a faster resolution.

    Please note that you will not be able to reply direct to this email, however if you wish to contact us further by email then please use the address below.

    [email address]
  • 17 Anna Scutt asked for advice. close 12:44 11 Jan 2012

    Hi,

    On 30 Nov 2011, I reported a problem to First Great Western. They sent and automated reply on 1 Dec, saying they hope to get back to me within 5 working days. I didn't get that reply.

    On 20th Dec, I emailed them again through this site, and on the same day I got the same automated message. Nothing since.

    I reported this issue on FMT because I have written to FGW twice with no reply, and phoned both their customer line and their disability assistance line. No reply from anything.

    I have no idea what to do next.
    Thank you for any advice you might have.

  • 18 Myf Nixon advised Anna to write to Passenger Focus. close 13:30 11 Jan 2012

    Hello Anna,

    Well done for staying on the case with this one. I am so sorry that you haven't received any kind of response from FGW.

    I have a couple of suggestions. First is to contact Passenger Focus, an independent govt watchdog who exist to step in and help when passengers have received unsatisfactory responses from operators (or, as in your case, no response, presumably).

    I would send them a link to your campaign page so that they can see the debate that has ensued, as well.

    Good luck!

    Myf Nixon (FixMyTransport admin)

    anorak
    admin
  • 19 Myf Nixon advised Anna to write to Discover magazine. close 13:36 11 Jan 2012

    Hello again!

    Secondly, I am going to suggest contacting the disability press to see if they have any interest in investigating the story further. Happily, there's a magazine in Cornwall that have previously covered the FixMyTransport website, which fits in rather well with your stated destination of Truro. Our contact there is Vaughan Temby, and he will be familiar with us.

    Don't forget to mention that you have ten supporters on this page and that debate is raging.

    anorak
    admin
  • 20 Myf Nixon commented close 13:40 11 Jan 2012

    My last piece of advice is to ask for the help of your local councillor. You can find out who yours is by going to WriteToThem.com and putting in your home postcode.

    You will see a list of councillors who represent you - find the one/s with public transport as one of their responsibilities, and drop them a line, again including the link to this page, and again stressing that it's not just you, but ten people who want to see this changed.

    Your councillors have a responsibility to make sure that public transport is suitable for every one of their constituents, so they should be willing to help.

    Meanwhile, I am going to drop a tweet to FGW to let them know that your request has gone unanswered.

    anorak
    admin
  • 21 Myf Nixon commented close 14:56 11 Jan 2012

    Hello Anna,
    I did nudge FGW through Twitter and they responded:

    "Hi, we did reply to this. Let me know if Anna needs us to resend the response. Thanks - Jo"

    Looking at our back-end systems we have only received the auto-replies, and nothing else from FGW. I hope we can get to the bottom of why their responses would not have reached us. In the meantime I'll tell Jo that they can also leave a comment directly on this page if all else fails.

    anorak
    admin
  • 22 Myf Nixon commented close 15:36 11 Jan 2012

    Anna, Jo at FGW now says:

    I have re sent my colleagues email straight to the customer - hope that helps - Jo

    Please let us know if you receive something, and what it says. We're on tenterhooks!

    anorak
    admin
  • 23 Anna Scutt added an update close 13:13 16 Jan 2012

    Had a reply from FGW - see next comment

  • 24 Anna Scutt commented close 13:14 16 Jan 2012

    Dear Miss Scutt

    Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the wheelchair and priority seating on our High Speed Trains (HST). I apologise for the delay in my reply.

    There are 4 priority seats adjacent to the wheelchair space. 2 of these seats are unreserved and 2 can be reserved. The unreserved seats are the only priority seats on an HST which are specifically left for turn up and go customers who need a little extra space due to their disability or condition.

    The other 2 seats can be reserved by anyone and you can request one of these when making your booking, if you would prefer, rather than booking the companion seat. The companion seats are the closest of the non-priority seats to the wheelchair space. This is done because most companions are not themselves disabled and do not therefore need to take up a priority seat.

    With this in mind, you may well be interested in our Priority Seat Card, which can be obtained by completing and returning the attached form. This card may help you to obtain one of the unreserved priority seats adjacent to the wheelchair space.

    May I also take this opportunity of wishing you a very happy New Year and I sincerely hope that all of your future journeys with First Great Western will be pleasant ones.

    Yours sincerely

    Mark Webber
    Customer Relations Senior Officer

  • 25 Anna Scutt commented close 13:18 16 Jan 2012

    Sent this reply, as even if carers get a Priority Seat Card "This MAY help you get a seat opposite the wheelchair space" really isn't good enough.

    Thank you for this. In your reply, you say that companions cannot sit in the priority seats because most of them are not disabled. The point of my original email was that companions often have to help wheelchair users and they cannot do that if they are sat even one seat away from them. Many companions will, in fact, be carers, and will need to sit as close as possible to the person they care for. Whether or not the companion is disabled is not the point here. The point is that carers need to be able to do their jobs.

    I have always been told I cannot book the seat opposite the wheelchair space.

    If you absolutely cannot change your position on this, PLEASE can you make it possible for carers to book the priority seat across the table from the space rather than across the aisle, or the row behind.

    Thank you.

    Anna Scutt

  • 26 Myf Nixon commented close 15:15 16 Jan 2012

    Thank you for updating us, Anna, and good luck with your continued correspondence. I hope your message gets through, and if not, do come back as I am sure we can suggest further channels for you to try.

    anorak
    admin
  • 27 Dave H commented close 20:33 16 Jan 2012

    Have you ever used East Coast for online bookings? They use MixingDeck as their booking software and this includes a facility to book assisted travel online. When you are registered as a regular user of East Coast, your details for subsequent bookings should be held, and applied to every booking you then make when logged in. The assisted booking page includes a text panel to enter your requirements - I suggest that you might try entering a requirement to book a specific numbered seat (C1 or C2?) for the companion when the wheelchair is booked.

    I don't think this facility is available with the now rather dated Trainline software that most TOC's still use, and the other MyTrain suit is still rather rough around the edges - it won't allow fast entry using 3-letter station codes and has a few other clunky features. Mixing deck is really good for finding best fares and times they are available. Oh and the ticket sale commission for East Coast goes directly to DfT and Treasury at present - that's why they knock off 10% when you buy East Coast only tickets.

    MyF - It strikes me that this issue is similar to Mel's one with the space for a guide dog and the need to have a double seat (and ideally a table seat) to keep the dog out of the aisle.

  • 28 Dave H commented close 01:42 17 Jan 2012

    Train design can play a part in making things easier or harder. The Virgin Pendolino's have 3 wheelchair spaces (B,D, G?) and the legroom for the 2 seats facing the wheelchair user is severely constrained by the design of the rise/lower table for the wheelchair.

    The Virgin and Cross Country Voyagers leave the wheelchair user in a bay on their own by the door at the end of the saloon, with a luggage rack opposite these are in each driving trailer (one first one standard).

    On Bombardier 'star trains the Calyx adaptable unit is often fitted - that table can be removed so that you can manoeuvre in to the space between the 1 facing 2 seats area.

    I recall that most FGW trains currently require 2 wheelchair spaces and these are in Coach C, one is against the bulkhead of the accessible toilet with 2 seats facing it and the other has tip-up seats with a slim luggage rack and faces the wider sliding door to the main vestibule area. When the converted buffet cars are added to the trains they will have 8 carriages and need 3 wheelchair spaces unless a derogation is allowed. 10% 0f the seats should be priority seating, and the tip-up seats cannot be used as priority seats. So in Coach C there should be at 6-8 seats which are priority seats. If extra spaces are added I wonder if they will go in to Coach B or D so that ramps and lifts will be close to the spaces on the train (at Parkway the trains stop with Coach C wheelchair users door right beside the lifts)

  • 29 Anna Scutt commented close 20:10 17 Jan 2012

    Hi Dave,
    Yes, I use FGW's Assisted Travel line. They will not allow me to book the seat across the table from my partner. The issue here seems to be that, being table seats rather than airline-style, FGW want to keep them for priority customers without reservations, presumably because of the extra legroom.

  • 30 Anna Scutt commented close 12:03 07 Feb 2012

    I've had an explaination from FGW of their policy, but nothing about changing it. I've applied for, and received, the Priority Seat Card, but this doesn't solve the problem. Guess it's up to me to tell them I am a cardholder every time I book, and hope that is enough to get the seat I need.

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  • started 30 November 2011
  • supporters 10
Train route between London Paddington and Truro operated by First Great Western Railway
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