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Anger over failure to help disabled train passenger

Charlotte Heath, who has cerebral palsy, was almost left stranded alone on a train when she and a friend were not given assistance to get off at Fleet train station

Disabled Charlotte Heath and her carer Chloe Dibnah

A mother is fuming after a friend looking after her disabled daughter was forced to push the emergency button because a guard didn’t help them off the train at Fleet.

Chloe Dibnah was forced to take the drastic action as she tried to get her friend Charlotte Heath off the 15.43 train from Basingstoke to Fleet on January 23.

Fleet resident Charlotte, 21, who has cerebral palsy, and 20-year-old Chloe had enjoyed a day out in Basingstoke before the incident happened.

Chloe, who lives in Cove, said that when she arrived at Basingstoke railway station for the return journey the train dispatcher told her he would notify the guard that the pair were travelling to Fleet. She added that on arrival at Fleet station, she opened the doors and looked out for the guard.

“I started to get concerned as nobody had come to us before arrival at Fleet to arrange the ramp to be lifted out for us,” said Chloe. “As the guard didn’t acknowledge my calls or waving, I placed myself in the doorway of the carriage expecting him at this stage to come down to see what the problem was. I screamed at the top of my voice for someone to help us. However, the guard still refused to come to our assistance.”

Chloe said she had to get back on to the train for fear that Charlotte would be taken to another station alone.

“When back on the train I pushed the emergency button with some trepidation in order to speak to the driver,” she added. “The driver then got us the ramp and let us off the train. The guard then finally came to speak to us at this point and claimed that he hadn’t been informed that there was a wheelchair on the train and as such had no intention of letting us off.”

Charlotte’s mother Janet Readings said: “This is totally unacceptable behaviour and treatment of a disabled person. Had my daughter’s carer been slower to get back on the train and without the assistance of other passengers keeping the doors open, it could well have resulted in my daughter being left on the train without the carer that she needs 24/7 for her well-being.

“I just feel that this was totally unacceptable behaviour from a company that states it is committed to providing excellent customer service.”

A spokesman for the South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance said: “We are extremely concerned to hear of the issues experienced by Ms Heath. We would like to reassure her that we are carrying out a thorough investigation of her claims as a matter of priority and that we will take any action necessary following the outcome of our investigation. We have contacted Ms Heath directly to discuss the issues she faced during her journey and to apologise that she does not appear to have received the kind of service we would expect.

“Our stakeholder manager has also arranged to visit Ms Heath at her home next week to discuss this further. We welcome people with special mobility requirements on to our trains and we have systems in place to help ensure they have a safe and pleasant journey on our services.

“We expect our staff to deliver a high standard of customer service and we are now looking into the circumstances of this particular case.”

 

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