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this is why I have muscle strain - helen-louise
baratron
baratron
this is why I have muscle strain
One of the reasons I'm feeling so sick and strained is that someone decided to close Platform 12 of Clapham Junction station. I don't know whose decision this was - Railtrack National Rail or Southern or one of the engineering contractors - but it was really inconvenient for me. You see, normally all fast, long-distance trains to London Victoria stop at Platform 12. My train from Clapham back to Norbiton goes from Platform 11, which is immediately next to Platfom 12. This means that I don't need an escort to do this journey with a heavy bag - as all I have to do is pull my bag down off the train, saunter across the platform, and then hump it onto the next train. I can manage this even on a reasonably bad pain day.

So you know what happened. Today, for no apparent reason, Platform 12 was closed and everything was stopping at 14 - which normally is used only for slow suburban trains to Victoria. The first I knew of this was when the train pulled into Platform 14 - which meant I had not pre-arranged someone to help me with my bag. Clapham Junction is an old station and has no lifts, only flights of stairs leading to a bridge above the platforms and a tunnel below. So, there I was, with 3 minutes to change platforms and get my connection, and two huge flights of stairs - one to get down, and another to get up. I was crying with pain and stress by the time I was halfway up the stairs to Platform 11, and could see that my train was sitting there with the doors open, ready to go.

Whose fault is this? I don't know. Should I, knowing that I have a disability, hyper-anticipate every single possible engineering work change, and ask in advance for details of journeys I take on a regular basis? (This would get old fast - and I doubt whether the staff at South West Trains could tell me on Friday about Southern's plans for Sunday, which would mean phoning up a multitude of people and wasting large amounts of spoonage). Should I have been pro-active on the train, and asked the guard to make certain that the train really would stop at Platform 12, the place it always stops? (I have never actually known Platform 12 to be closed before - I've seen 14 closed, and 15, and sometimes 5 & 6. Never 12.) Is it my own fault for getting injured because I didn't look around for someone to carry my bag for me - knowing that I had a 3 minute connection with half an hour till the next train, only a bare platform to wait on (no covered waiting room, let alone a heated one), and that the first three people I asked would say "more than me job's worth"/"we're not insured for lifting" even after I cried and said "DDA?" at them? (The DDA, or Disability Discrimination Act, has things about public transport where you're required to give a minimum of 24 hours notice if you need "special arrangements" made at a station. I don't bother with their special arrangements, because I don't need to use a wheelchair and can make my own arrangements with friends - which is what I'd have done had I known that the train was coming into a different platform). Just making an announcement at East Croydon would have given Richard enough time to come up and meet me - I have, on occasion, been on trains and heard announcements to warn passengers that the train would be arriving at a different platform than usual. Even an announcement as we were pulling into Clapham would have been better than nothing - while it wouldn't have helped, at least I'd have had a few more seconds to figure out what to do.

I don't know. I'm not trying to put the blame on other people if it is really my fault. And I didn't realise how heavy my bag was - as it has wheels which work reasonably well, I hadn't realised it would actually hurt me to have to bump it up the stairs until I tried. But, I dunno. I can't be the only person who'd be inconvenienced by an unexpected platform change. Just telling the train companies this so they can start making announcements might help someone in the future. If only I can figure out what to say in the letter :/

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Comments
barakta From: barakta Date: 13th February 2006 01:59 (UTC) (Link)
They should have had lifts. Under the DDA they would need lifts for anyone with mobility needs. Also I think they should make an announcement on the train so you have more time to prepare for the change, or arrange some other method.

I can't believe the station staff refused to carry your bag. I would have thought they should do it unless your bag was unreasonably heavy. I am sure you don't have the spoons but would writing a letter to whoever controls the station be worth it?

When I wasn't ill I often used to help people with bags on and off trains and stuff. If I could lift the bags I would also offer to carry them up/down stairs and get the owner (often a frail elderly lady) to where they needed to be. I have seen lots of healthy looking people walk past distressed looking old people, and I turn out to be the only person to stop. Sadly sometimes when I offer frail looking people decline - probably because they don't feel they can trust a stranger, and I can't blame them for that!

Sadly it is scenarios like this which make me not use public transport. I'd use it more if it wasn't so outrageously priced and unreliable. I won't pay for unreliable services which are staffed by often rude and unhelpful stuff (even if they are justified because they are disenfranchised)...
baratron From: baratron Date: 13th February 2006 02:07 (UTC) (Link)
Clapham Junction doesn't have lifts, though. Neither do a lot of railway stations. Wimbledon and Surbiton have lifts that stink of pee - Wimbledon's are accessible by "normal" people so are used as public toilets, Surbiton's are a bit more hassle so less toilet-y. Raynes Park, New Malden and Norbiton only have stairs. Kingston has a ramp up to one platform and a chairlift to the others that's more hassle than it's worth - it's only usable by wheelchair users, and it takes them so long to get it out of its cage that anyone who can walk does.

I didn't bother asking the station staff this time, as I was running late and no one has ever been willing to help before. Unless you're at one of the major termini with designated Porters (who are insured for lifting), you have to pre-book that sort of thing. Also, the staff on Platform Whatever are there to wave trains in and out, and can't randomly go galivanting off to other platforms.
barakta From: barakta Date: 13th February 2006 20:10 (UTC) (Link)
Neither do a lot of railway stations.

Why not? They have had 11 years since the first part of the DDA came into force. They should have been working on lifts for the last decade. They cannot say they haven't had enough warning... Legally you could submit a DDA request for lifts between all platforms and they'd have to give a sensible response within 6 months that included plans for this - and I refuse to believe it isn't possible.

I am in many ways looking forward to getting another telecoil loop for my BAHA. Means I get to go around pointing out all the loop signed places which DON'T have working loops, or misconfigured ones. Sheffield's rebuilt station queues first stop - their automated ticket machines run windows with regular predictable (crashed) results.

And of course the one thing more useless than bugger all access, is accessibility 'features' (sorry bugs) which don't work properly, or require faff to use. The half-arsed effort syndrome!

The 24 hour rule is pathetic, partly because it isn't reliable even 24 hours notified in advance, and partly because requiring 24 hours notice of your own plans is not equal to non-disabled people. If public places and systems were staffed and properly accessible 24 hours notice wouldn't be necessary.

I liked someone below's suggestion of complaining about the lack of warning, and asking that in the event of a platform being closed that extra porters are VISIBLY available to assist people with more complex platform changes.

Lots of helpful suggestions here. I hope you don't end up in the same stupid and painful situation too soon. (I would say ever again, but that's not realistic sadly).
From: evilref Date: 13th February 2006 08:57 (UTC) (Link)
Once upon a time the railways employed these people called porters, whose job it was to help passengers with luggage.

I guess that, in a perfect world, they would put on porters to help people with disabilities when they make changes like this -- something like the business of laying on buses when trains are cancelled.

Perhaps you should ask your MP to take it up with the transport minister.
ailbhe From: ailbhe Date: 13th February 2006 09:01 (UTC) (Link)
No lifts. Ugh. I *hate* no lifts. RSI + baby + buggy + even a nappy bag, and no lifts means no go there.

The 24-hours-notice thing drives me mad, too. I've never used it, because jeepers, 24 hours, that's daft.
thekumquat From: thekumquat Date: 13th February 2006 10:36 (UTC) (Link)
I'm surprised staff would refuse to carry an average suitcase-weight bag. Certainly CJ has signs at plat 14 saying "Please ask station staff if you need assistance" - which isn't much help if you can't find staff, which is the usual case. But there should be a couple around who aren't on paddle duty, particularly in rush hour.

Please complain.

I have to admit that when going through CJ I have to allow an extra 20 min in case of delays, and with baggage the best method I know is to look round for a strong-looking member of the public who doesn't look hurried, and ask nicely.
sashajwolf From: sashajwolf Date: 13th February 2006 18:51 (UTC) (Link)
I agree that writing to point out the problem would be a good move. As for what to do in the immediate situation if it happens again - I think that in similar circumstances, I'd probably have chosen to miss my connecting train. If it wasn't the last of the day, I'd make my way to the correct platform in a leisurely fashion and ring whoever was expecting me to say that I'd been unavoidably delayed - one good thing about London is that practically everyone is understanding about Transport Hell - and if it was the last train of the day, I'd find the safest available place to wait and call a cab or a friend with a car. I'd probably also treat myself to a beverage and a snack, if there was somewhere open, as my reward for having to cope with stuff :-)
(Deleted comment)
From: x_mass Date: 14th February 2006 13:09 (UTC) (Link)
oh grief!
hugs
kate
artremis From: artremis Date: 14th February 2006 15:30 (UTC) (Link)
meep.
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