The RMT union has shared the experience of Sandra Nighy, from Tarring in Worthing, who was left stranded on a station platform in the cold and dark, because there was no one to help her onto a train.
The 56-year-old had been at bible study in Hampden Park, near Eastbourne, on Friday (January 6) and was returning home to West Worthing railway station after 10pm, which is a journey she does twice a week.
However, she was left to wait in the ‘freezing cold’ for a taxi at the railway station – which took two hours.
She said: “The train pulled up and the doors opened, but no one came to assist me.
“I kept pressing the button to open the doors in an attempt to alert someone.
“The driver then got out of his cab to say there was no OBS (on board supervisor) on the train and he was not trained to help me.
“I could see he felt really bad – the whole situation was horrible and embarrassing and it is unforgivable when I had booked assistance 48 hours in advance.
“I was frozen and ached all over and didn’t get home until after midnight because the taxi firm said there was no available taxi with wheelchair access,” she added.
Mrs Nighy thought she had overcome the worst but found herself in the same situation the following day.
She said: “On my way back from Hampden Park on Saturday, I was told I could not get on the train again as there would be no OBS to help me at Brighton, which is where I change trains to get home, so I had to wait for the next one – which luckily didn’t take too long. Am I just going to have to stop travelling if I want to go out somewhere? It is total discrimination and I am meant to have equal rights.
“There needs to be someone on the train or the driver needs to be able to help. If someone is taken ill, or is violent, the driver wouldn’t know and this is quite scary.”
Mick Cash, a general secretary at RMT said this woman’s ‘dreadful’ experience is ‘just one of many examples’ that are being drawn to the RMT’s attention of disabled passengers being unable to use trains because there is no second person on board.
He said: “It is everything we predicted would happen when the company refused to guarantee a second safety critical member of staff on board and it is disgraceful that the truth about what Southern are doing is exposed in such an inhumane fashion.
“It also exposes the fallacy of Southern’s empty promise that trains would run with two members of staff except in exceptional circumstances, as this instance is far from exceptional.
“Many passengers, including disabled people are now in fear over their safety and the need for assistance on trains because of the disgraceful attitude of this company and this government.”
A spokesman from Southern Rail apologised to Mrs Nighy.
He said: “We are very sorry that Mrs Nighy didn’t get the level of service she was expecting.
“We will be investigating the circumstances pertaining to this experience and will be contacting her as soon as possible.”
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