Here’s the text of the letter I sent to Journey Care this week with the names taken out to protect the innocent and not so innocent!
*** Start of Text ***
It is with regret that I have to write to you with a complaint regarding a
journey I took yesterday with my partner between Blackpool North and
Nottingham. Myself and my partner are both blind and require guidance when
travelling between trains as well as onto trains in order that we can find
On Sunday afternoon (3rd August) I phoned to book assistance for this
journey and spoke to a gentleman named B who I regret to say was very
stand-offish and neglected to take information such as how many people were
travelling and a contact telephone number. He did however inform me that my
assistance was booked. I later phoned again as I was unsure that this
booking had taken place. It is as well that I did as there was no record of
my booking on your systems. I spoke to a very helpful lady who took the
booking but was unable to guarantee it as, although I’d booked earlier,
there was no proof of this so it had to be done as a late booking.
On arrival at Blackpool North yesterday, I found out that they did in fact
have a record of our booking but not of our seat reservations. Although we
said that we did have reserved seats, the gentleman at Blackpool was adamant
that we didn’t. He told us to sit in an area where the seats were those
little uncomfortable fold down ones, and his exact words were, “I’ll put you
here as that’s where they’ll expect to find people like you”. When we asked
if he’d phone Manchester Piccadilly Station to let them know we were coming,
he said that he couldn’t promise to do this. The guard on the train also
said that she couldn’t do it as there was no signal on her phone.
Consequently, when we arrived at Manchester Piccadilly, there was no one to
meet us. The guard however, did find us a member of platform staff, who
said he would phone for someone to assist us to our next train, but he
couldn’t guarantee us any assistance.
At that point we were stranded on Manchester Piccadilly Station which
neither of us are familiar with, with no definite assistance, even though we
had booked it through Journey Care. Interestingly enough, shortly after our
arrival, a second train pulled in carrying a passenger in a wheel chair. We
noticed that as soon as the train drew to a standstill, there was someone
immediately there with a ramp to assist.
We therefore phoned Journey Care, partly to register a complaint, and partly
to see what they could do to help us. We spoke to a very helpful lady
called L who took down all our details and completed a form on our
behalf. She was also able to phone Manchester Piccadilly station to ensure
that someone was there to assist us. We were met accordingly, albeit only
as the train was drawing in, and the rest of the journey passed without
Unfortunately, the incidents I have described are not a one-off occurrence.
I always try to book assistance in advance if possible to make it as easy as
possible for station staff to assist me. However, either the bookings do
not get to where they are meant to go, or the station staff do not consider
them as any sort of priority. More than once I have been met with the
response that there has been a wheel chair passenger to assist which means
that my assistance has been viewed as less important.
As blind passengers, it is very stressful to find ourselves in the middle of
busy, noisy stations with no assistance and a tight time-line to get to our
next train. Members of the public also have their own time constraints and
are therefore unable to help when assistance breaks down.
In recent months I have experienced people not turning up to meet me from a
train; station staff saying that they weren’t expecting me because the
previous station had not phoned them; station and/or train staff refusing to
contact stations to inform them of my arrival; connecting stations having no
record of my assistance even though the previous station did have; station
staff being generally rude and treating me like some sort of unwelcome
interruption to their working day. I would not be exaggerating when I say
that in the region of 70% of my assistance bookings fail at one or all
stations along my journey.
Both my partner and myself are regular train travellers, not through choice
I might add. We are both of the opinion that the quality of assistance has
reduced dramatically since both Journey Care moved their offices and the
train franchises changed. These both occurred just before Christmas 2007.
We both have journeys to make every weekend for the next six weeks at least,
and quite frankly, we are dreading them, even though they are supposedly for
pleasant recreational purposes. The stress we will undoubtedly experience
on the way will have a tremendous negative impact on our weekends.
We would be very grateful if you could look into this matter with some
urgency as we are now unaware as to whether the correct thing to do is to
book assistance as we have done previously, or to take our chances on the
As blind train travellers we believe that we are at present receiving a very
We look forward to hearing from you with your comments and would be more
than happy to discuss it with you further.
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I have asked for a response either in Braille or by Email, so we’ll see what happens!