Rail service slated

A DISABLED rail passenger from Nailsea has hit out at First Great Western after she was left stranded on a dual carriageway waiting for a taxi.

Rita Booth, who suffers from severe arthritis, cannot use Nailsea and Backwell Station with her walker as there is no ramp on the platform.

First Great Western has promised to arrange alternative transport for all its customers unable to climb the steps at the station.

However, Mrs Booth, aged 85, claims she has been left waiting nearly an hour for taxis and also got stuck on a train after members of staff failed to help her off.

The first incident happened on March 5 on a trip to Southampton. She said: “Because I cannot use the station they promised me a taxi to Bristol to catch the train from there. I had booked a disabled seat on the train which was due to leave Bristol at 10.48am.

“I was at Nailsea station at 9.27am waiting for the taxi. I made three calls and on each one they said the taxi was on its way.

“It arrived at 10.40am. When I got to the station I had to wait for the 11.18 train instead. It was jammed. They had to move someone off a disabled seat so I could sit down.

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“My family was waiting for me and they didn’t know when I was going to get there. It was an absolute nightmare.”

Mrs Booth also experienced problems when she travelled to Guilford the year before.

She said: “Nobody came to help me off the train and before I could get off the door had shut.

“At the next stop it was three flights of stairs down to the ground level. A member of staff had to carry my walker down and I had to walk down hanging onto the hand rail for dear life. She left me on the side of the dual carriageway for a taxi which didn’t arrive.

“My family didn’t know where I was. A taxi didn’t come for 40 minutes and I just didn’t know what to do. It was awful.”

First Great Western confirmed it has a hotline for people to use the day before they intend to travel so they can arrange alternative transport if they cannot access Nailsea and Backwell Station.

Staff at the hotline then called the control centre staff to book a taxi. Due to complaints with the service the system changed in March and staff from the hotline now book the taxi directly.

A First spokesman said: “The control centre used to automatically book a taxi which could accommodate a wheelchair, but not all disabled people need this service and there are fewer taxis which can transport wheelchairs.

“We switched to the hotline so staff can better assess what type of taxi is needed.

“But we our hands also tied as we can’t force the taxi company to be on time.

“The incident in Guilford should not have happened. If Mrs Booth gets in touch with us we will chase up the matter.”

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