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Wheelchair user angry after reserved area on train is filled with suitcases

The Independent logo The Independent 22/08/2018 Sabrina Barr

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A woman who uses a wheelchair has expressed her dismay after finding her reserved area on a train filled with a pile of suitcases.

Becky Whitworth had been on the way to Doncaster from Dundee with her mother and sister when the incident occurred.

When boarding a connecting London North Eastern Railway (LNER) train in York, Ms Whitworth discovered that the space that should have been kept free for her wheelchair had been taken up by other passengers’ luggage.

According to Ms Whitworth, the guards on the train had “no interest in helping”, with one acting in a particularly “rude” and “aggressive” manner.

"A guard assisted me onto the train in York, he saw the pile of cases in the reserved wheelchair space and said, 'That's your space, it's ok though,' and squeezed me into the opposite side," she told The Independent.

"As I was only backed up against chairs, my chair was still tipping backwards so my sister had to stand and hold my chair."

Ms Whitworth tweeted a photo of the mound of suitcases, writing: “This was my reserved space today. No disabled toilet either, just rude staff.”

She explained that she’d originally booked a different train, but had been made to change her booking due to lack of space.

a pile of luggage sitting on top of a car © Provided by The Independent

"We had originally booked a train seven hours later, so we could spend the day in Dundee. However, after an hour long conversation with LNER the only train that had wheelchair space free was the 9.07 train from Dundee," she said.

The railway service booked wheelchair assistance for Ms Whitworth on the new train. However, she, her and mother and sister weren't sent new tickets, which angered the guards on the train.

"The guard was very vocal and demanded to know why we weren't on the right train," she said.

Furthermore, a family who owned the bags in the allocated wheelchair area allegedly simply “stared out of the window” during the whole debacle.

After writing about her experience on Twitter, Ms Whitwork has received numerous messages of support from people who can’t believe the treatment that she received.

“Makes my blood boil. Absolute ineptitude and downright laziness,” one person tweeted.

Another described the situation as “Shocking. Disgraceful. Selfish.”

Ms Whitworth explained that booking a train can be complicated when in a wheelchair, as the reserved spacing can be limited.

"A disabled person has to pre-book assistance with ramps and to reserve that space as there's only one wheelchair allowed at a time," she said.

"So to get on a train you didn't originally want to be on and then the space you'd spent hours booking was full and the staff didn't do anything to help was very frustrating."

LNER has responded to Ms Whitworth following her complaints, inviting her to meet with LNER customer relations manager Michael Ross to discuss the events that occurred.

A LNER spokesperson told The Independent: "LNER is committed to providing an excellent service for all our customers and we take the experience of less able passengers very seriously.

"We are in contact directly with Ms Whitworth and are fully investigating the matter."

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