A different perspective....

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G0ORC

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I retired as an operational railwayman and it is 15 years since I was actively involved in an industry in which I spent around 38 years trying to keep trains running.

When I checked my free pass allocation I was surprise to find I hadn't actually been on a train, save for one short ten minute journey, for over three years. My wife has limited mobility (but not in a wheelchair) and had travelled last week from Derby to Ash (Surrey) to visit friends on her own. The "assistance" system worked very well at Derby and Reading. The only slight issue was, now that Cross-Country have changed the service pattern from North-East - Reading to Manchester - Reading we had to get up very early (for us) to catch the only through train of the day at 0713 from Derby.

Her circumstances changed for the worse and I had to travel out at short notice and assist her back earlier than expected using a system that had changed much and I had not experienced in the last 3 years. Despite COVID restrictions we managed to change our reservations from each end without fuss. We couldn't book a seat sitting together due to COVID but that didn't prove to be a problem on the day.

I thought I would take a look at the system from the point of view of my wife , who struggles to get around.

The Staff

The staff both on stations and on trains involved were all unfailingly cheerful, helpful, obliging and understanding. EMR at Derby, Cross-Country on trains, staff at New Street and GWR at Reading excelled themselves in providing exemplary assistance where it was required. It could not have been a better experience in this respect.

The Trains

The return journey was a Class 165 to Reading, a double Class 221 from Reading to New Street and, bless the lord..... an HST from New Street to Derby. I appreciate it must be well nigh impossible to design luggage space that will accommodate some of oddly shaped paraphernalia my wife needs and even the HST couldn't cope with that.

We had to stow most things on seats on the thankfully sparsely loaded Class 165. Even so and very much against my better judgement we had to block a right hand door set (in direction of travel) in order accommodate some of it and I had to get up smartly before arriving at Reading to move it as that door was required there.

The Voyager did manage to take the luggage in the appointed space after much struggling and manoeuvring. We had a priority seat with what appeared to be better leg-room which was much appreciated.

The HST coped well but it was a good job there was plenty of room. Had the train been busier, I would have had to stand with with my wife's walker in the vestibule. As it was and again against my better judgement, we stowed this oddly shaped contraption in the seat well of an unused and unreserved seat. Having said that it was a unique pleasure travelling on the HST with big wide doors which made life a lot easier. Still the best train of the day by a country mile.....

Punctuality was good, all on time except for 1S51 which was delayed into Birmingham (9" late departure) and again around Water Orton and Park Lane for what appeared to be heat related TSRs and was 17" at Tamworth and 14" late into Derby.

The Big Stations

I start off from a biased point of view. New Street is a hell-hole. Always has been, always will be and changing trains there is only (very) marginally preferable to crossing London by public transport for a person with limited mobility and their carer. They may have spent many millions on the place but its still an appalling dump. How the staff cope with it day in and day out and still remain cheerful is beyond me.

We arrived on Platform 6 from Reading on time with a 15 minute connection. I then had to get my wife and all of her accoutrements across to P8. Not a huge distance I know and it should have been easy. However, had 1S51 not been a few minutes down due a diversion via Camp Hill and Proof House (some problem at Five Ways, I understand) then we probably would have missed it. Platform 6 was heavily crowded and we had to wait for the lifts to go up and down three times before there was room for us. There was the same story attempting to get down to P8 but when we eventually made it to platform level, there was chaos. Because of the slightly late running of 1S51 and the very late running of a local service to Litchfield the Litchfield passengers were being directed by the platform staff to another platform by shouting at them. Passengers running everywhere and the cacophony of noise from trains, people shouting instructions, a train arriving from the wrong direction (thus reverse formation) and the woefully inadequate PA system was just beyond belief. Awful for able bodied people - for us just downright intolerable. I know its a difficult environment but is it so hard to design a PA system that just works?

Now if your going to spend big money on a station and realise the commercial possibilities Reading is the best example you could have (even though all the train level shops were closed, due to COVID, I suppose). Spacious, clean and brilliantly laid out. It couldn't have been better. You couldn't have a bigger contrast than with the dreadful dump that is New St. I know the layout at New St constrains what could be done but there surely must be better things they could have spent their millions on.

COVID.

I don't know why they bothered. The only people not wearing masks as chin warmers were the Rail Staff. Social distancing - that was a laugh, just impossible almost everywhere but New Street was like a super-spreader. I was just glad we'd had both of our injections.

My advice to Boris based on what I saw yesterday - just open up the country and withdraw all restrictions. The vast body of the general public have already forgotten about COVID anyway.


Vince
 
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The Planner

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Reading vs New St is never going to be a valid comparison when New St is effectively underground, short of stripping off everything above it which is never going to happen.
 

WesternLancer

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12 Apr 2019
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3,891
I retired as an operational railwayman and it is 15 years since I was actively involved in an industry in which I spent around 38 years trying to keep trains running.

When I checked my free pass allocation I was surprise to find I hadn't actually been on a train, save for one short ten minute journey, for over three years. My wife has limited mobility (but not in a wheelchair) and had travelled last week from Derby to Ash (Surrey) to visit friends on her own. The "assistance" system worked very well at Derby and Reading. The only slight issue was, now that Cross-Country have changed the service pattern from North-East - Reading to Manchester - Reading we had to get up very early (for us) to catch the only through train of the day at 0713 from Derby.

Her circumstances changed for the worse and I had to travel out at short notice and assist her back earlier than expected using a system that had changed much and I had not experienced in the last 3 years. Despite COVID restrictions we managed to change our reservations from each end without fuss. We couldn't book a seat sitting together due to COVID but that didn't prove to be a problem on the day.

I thought I would take a look at the system from the point of view of my wife , who struggles to get around.

The Staff

The staff both on stations and on trains involved were all unfailingly cheerful, helpful, obliging and understanding. EMR at Derby, Cross-Country on trains, staff at New Street and GWR at Reading excelled themselves in providing exemplary assistance where it was required. It could not have been a better experience in this respect.

The Trains

The return journey was a Class 165 to Reading, a double Class 221 from Reading to New Street and, bless the lord..... an HST from New Street to Derby. I appreciate it must be well nigh impossible to design luggage space that will accommodate some of oddly shaped paraphernalia my wife needs and even the HST couldn't cope with that.

We had to stow most things on seats on the thankfully sparsely loaded Class 165. Even so and very much against my better judgement we had to block a right hand door set (in direction of travel) in order accommodate some of it and I had to get up smartly before arriving at Reading to move it as that door was required there.

The Voyager did manage to take the luggage in the appointed space after much struggling and manoeuvring. We had a priority seat with what appeared to be better leg-room which was much appreciated.

The HST coped well but it was a good job there was plenty of room. Had the train been busier, I would have had to stand with with my wife's walker in the vestibule. As it was and again against my better judgement, we stowed this oddly shaped contraption in the seat well of an unused and unreserved seat. Having said that it was a unique pleasure travelling on the HST with big wide doors which made life a lot easier. Still the best train of the day by a country mile.....

Punctuality was good, all on time except for 1S51 which was delayed into Birmingham (9" late departure) and again around Water Orton and Park Lane for what appeared to be heat related TSRs and was 17" at Tamworth and 14" late into Derby.

The Big Stations

I start off from a biased point of view. New Street is a hell-hole. Always has been, always will be and changing trains there is only (very) marginally preferable to crossing London by public transport for a person with limited mobility and their carer. They may have spent many millions on the place but its still an appalling dump. How the staff cope with it day in and day out and still remain cheerful is beyond me.

We arrived on Platform 6 from Reading on time with a 15 minute connection. I then had to get my wife and all of her accoutrements across to P8. Not a huge distance I know and it should have been easy. However, had 1S51 not been a few minutes down due a diversion via Camp Hill and Proof House (some problem at Five Ways, I understand) then we probably would have missed it. Platform 6 was heavily crowded and we had to wait for the lifts to go up and down three times before there was room for us. There was the same story attempting to get down to P8 but when we eventually made it to platform level, there was chaos. Because of the slightly late running of 1S51 and the very late running of a local service to Litchfield the Litchfield passengers were being directed by the platform staff to another platform by shouting at them. Passengers running everywhere and the cacophony of noise from trains, people shouting instructions, a train arriving from the wrong direction (thus reverse formation) and the woefully inadequate PA system was just beyond belief. Awful for able bodied people - for us just downright intolerable. I know its a difficult environment but is it so hard to design a PA system that just works?

Now if your going to spend big money on a station and realise the commercial possibilities Reading is the best example you could have (even though all the train level shops were closed, due to COVID, I suppose). Spacious, clean and brilliantly laid out. It couldn't have been better. You couldn't have a bigger contrast than with the dreadful dump that is New St. I know the layout at New St constrains what could be done but there surely must be better things they could have spent their millions on.

COVID.

I don't know why they bothered. The only people not wearing masks as chin warmers were the Rail Staff. Social distancing - that was a laugh, just impossible almost everywhere but New Street was like a super-spreader. I was just glad we'd had both of our injections.

My advice to Boris based on what I saw yesterday - just open up the country and withdraw all restrictions. The vast body of the general public have already forgotten about COVID anyway.


Vince
Interesting to read this account Vince. It illustrates very well that mobility issues are much more than simply the key minimum required by the DDA compliance rules for trains / stations - which of course are very important nevertheless.

I think ref covid the issue can be that many younger people have concluded (in some cases wrongly), that if they get it it will now kill or hospitalise them, hence a growing casualisation of approach. I'm not sure that the same can be said for vulnerable people, for which older citizens will, I expect, for the vast majority.
 

Techniquest

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A very interesting read that, and ouch to your bad experience at New Street! It's still one of my favourite stations in the UK, but that's partly down to the amount of time I used to spend there amongst other reasons.

As for your comments on social distancing etc, I've got to agree. Distancing is practically unheard of anywhere I go, and face covering wearing is deemed unnecessary by so many people now (this is especially based on today's observations in Manchester) it sickens me. I'm still waiting to have my vaccine, the first one was meant to be done a couple of weeks back, but the day I was due to get it done I was in A&E! Due to get the first one this weekend, and I can't wait. It's been a long time coming, and I hope when I've had the second one I'll finally stop being quite so paranoid about covidiots and crowds in general.

Sadly, what you've experienced with c-word virus stuff is basically how it is all over the country now, and that includes a lot of railway staff...

Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience!
 
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