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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 18:05 GMT
Disability chief denied rail help
Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News website age & disability correspondent

Photo of DRC chairman Bert Massie
Mr Massie was unimpressed by the service he received
The head of the Disability Rights Commission was left stranded by staff at London's Euston station after there was no one to help him onto a train.

Bert Massie, a wheelchair user, said staff told him they were too busy to help him board the Virgin West Coast train to Liverpool.

He has written to Network Rail to complain about the service he received.

Network Rail has apologised and said they were "deeply concerned" by Mr Massie's allegations.

I couldn't believe it when the person who took my call said 'it's just one of those things - if you miss the train, you miss the train'
Bert Massie

He was on his way from London to Liverpool, and had booked help from the taxi rank to the train.

At Euston, he asked someone from Network Rail for help but was told he was too busy and to phone the office.

He had to phone three times before someone came.

"I couldn't believe it when the person who took my call said, 'it's just one of those things - if you miss the train, you miss the train'," said Mr Massie.

By the time someone did arrive, he was unable to get to the train before it left for Liverpool.

Mr Massie said he had arrived, as usual, 20 minutes early to catch his train.

"There is usually someone waiting for me when I pre-book, but on this occasion there was only a young man carrying luggage at a taxi rank who told me to phone the office."

Management blamed

The incident comes at a time when the DRC is about to launch an advertising campaign to highlight discrimination and indignity experienced by disabled people on a daily basis.

Mr Massie says it is often not simply a matter of wheelchair users being able to catch the next available service.

"There are only three seats on every train that a wheelchair user can occupy - if they're pre-booked, we have to wait for a train that does have space."

Mr Massie blamed Network Rail's management for not having sufficient staff at Euston and for using untrained security workers to assist disabled people.

In a statement, Network rail said: "We have been in contact with Mr Massie today in order to resolve the matter."

"Network Rail is committed to making stations as accessible as possible to all our passengers, whatever their needs."

The Virgin spokesman said: "We are very concerned at this reported incident.

"It is our policy to ensure that people with special needs enjoy full and ready access to our services."

By the end of this year, disabled people will have new rights to be treated fairly on trains and buses.

The current legislation only gives them rights when using bus and rail stations.

According to the Strategic Rail Authority, 60% of the UK's rail network is inaccessible to disabled people.


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