In the most recent issue of "RAIL" Magazine (dated February 17-March 1 2016) I found a couple of articles which demonstrate precisely why I hate using Public Transport in the UK (with particular reference to trains).
Apparently (according to the articles) the Railway Industry should be paying more attention to the needs of wheelchair users when it comes to accessibility issues. The rest of us can seemingly expect to have our issues ignored.
Yes - I realise that wheelchair users can have serious problems accessing trains at certain stations. One of my friends refuses to use her local railway station (Market Harborough) because only one platform has a wheelchair accessible ramp from the main station building. Luckily the track has not been electrified - yet. Market Harborough Railway Station does not have any lifts. This means (I have been reliably informed) the poor wheelchair user wishing to travel to London by train directly from Market Harborough has two options - either get a train to Leicester and use the lift to swap between platforms, or be pushed across the tracks at Market Harborough Railway Station.
However, I have taken to avoiding using the UK Railways as much as possible because they do not cater for my needs either.
If I am not faced with a train which has what I classify as "Somersault Doors" (the ones which you have to lean out of to open - which make me feel like I am about to fall out of the train as I open them), it is a range of issues from gaps between the train and the platform, to electronic timetable displays on platforms (which I need a stepladder in order to be able to see properly), to poor lighting in the station itself, to the absolutely useless "tickertape" style electronic displays on the trains (these are rumoured to tell you which station your train will be stopping at next).
You may remember blog posts I typed on two separate stations within a 40 mile radius of each other (Birmingham New Street and Leicester London Road)?
It has got to the stage where (unless I am visiting my friends who live within walking distance of Market Harborough Railway Station or I have to get back to Leicester as a matter of some urgency) I actually prefer getting an Arriva "Sapphire" X3 service bus between Leicester and Market Harborough. The seats are comfortable for one thing and the buses have reasonable-sized screens on which show you the next stop for the bus.
The other major problem is that (unless you happen to live in a major city like London, Nottingham or Newcastle upon Tyne) bus stations and Railway Stations are usually kept some distance away from each other. So - if you want to get from Leicester to Desborough (in Northamptonshire) for example, you have to walk from either Market Harborough or Kettering Railway Station to the local bus station, or you can travel for an extra half an hour between Leicester and Market Harborough on the X3 in order to change buses at the Market Hall.
Compare that with Public Transport in The Netherlands.
In The Netherlands I usually only use the bus for one of two reasons. Either to get me to the nearest Railway Station so I can top up my OV Card (Dutch version of an Oyster Card - I blogged about this after my last trip to The Netherlands), or because I want to travel via a scenic route. The rest of the time I prefer to travel on rails - be it by train, tram, or underground.
I must admit to being disappointed when the Dutch Railways swapped from their old "Rolodex-style" type of boards to show which train was due at the platform (you could put that down to nostalgia I suppose) but I was very pleased when I saw how big the new Electronic boards are. Put it this way - I think you could fit at least two English boards - both lengthways and widthways - into a single Dutch Electronic board. The font is a lot bigger as well.
Not quite the original "Rolodex-Style" boards but this one is still almost an extinct species)
The other thing I love about Dutch Railway Stations is that you either have a Bus Station right outside it (in most locations) or within a very short walk (with the exception of Schiedam - but at least that has got an underground station in it).
The Dutch trains are something else as well. OK - so not all of them are exactly accessible for wheelchairs (which is a bit strange when you consider that Dutch Railway Stations have recently begun to discover this brilliant invention called a lift). Having said that, I am sure that you could quite easily drive a car onto a Dutch train - and have space to turn it around - the doors are so wide on most Dutch trains - you would just need a ramp to get it onto some of them.
A Dutch "Sprinter" Train - these are usually used as "Stop Trains" or local trains between a very long list of destinations (the shortest route you will find this train on is the Hoek van Holland to Rotterdam Central Station one). If you are travelling with heavy suitcases these will be easy to board as their floor is level with the platform.
I know - you probably won't believe me but this is miy all time favourite train to travel on (either in the UK or The Netherlands). I am even prepared to overcome my extreme dislike of going down strange staircases if it means I get a choice between travelling on the upper deck of a Double Decker train and a single decker one. Just avoid the lower deck as you (a) don't get that much of a view, and (b) get deafened by the engine noise. These trains really come into their own when you travel between Rotterdam and Breda, Roosendaal, or Vlissingen (Flushing) - the view over the water as you travel on the top deck is something to be experienced.
The best thing about Dutch trains though is the screens inside them. These even beat the ones on the Arriva "Sapphire" buses as they not only tell you the nest station but the list of the following stations with expected arrival times (they even have a helpful list of transfers when you get to major stations telling you which platform your connection is on).
In short - I realise that the wheelchair users who travel on trains in the UK have reasonable grounds for complaint - however - please don't concentrate on that section of the Disabled population at the expense of those of us with other disabilities which may not be as visible.
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