Page last updated at 21:40 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Kent disabled woman told to get ticket to cross station

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Lift anger for wheelchair woman

A disabled woman has received an apology after she was told she had to go on a 45 minute return train journey to get to the opposite platform.

Wheelchair-user Julie Cleary, 53, of Staplehurst, Kent, could not reach the correct platform at the town's station because the lift was unmanned.

She was told to get a return ticket to Ashford so she could reach the other side of the tracks.

Southeastern Railway said the lift can now be used unmanned at any time.

Ms Cleary said she needed to reach the other platform because the only exit to the station was located on that side.

Ms Cleary's experience is by no means unusual and shows how far we still have to go before disabled people enjoy equal access
Ruth Scott, Scope

She said: "I was astonished. Angry, at the fact that they'd spent all that money making this station accessible and it wasn't.

"We assumed you could remotely access it [the lift] by calling the help point, but apparently you had to pre-book it and my only option was to get a train to Ashford, cross the tracks and come back to access the other platform."

In the end, Ms Clearly decided to call several members of her family to help, who carried her up the stairs in her wheelchair.

The lift had been installed as part of Network Rail's Access to All programme, which saw £370m spent on delivering accessible routes throughout stations across England.

Jon Hay-Campbell, of Southeastern Railway, said the company had apologised to Ms Cleary.

He said the lifts could now be used day and night without assistance.

Mr Hay-Campbell explained that Southeastern had always intended to only have the lift open during the day when manned, and publicised that fact, rather than keep it closed until the extra work, which was always planned, was done

He added: "We appreciate how frustrating this is for all the passengers."

Ruth Scott, of disability charity Scope, said: "It is extraordinary to make a 30 mile round trip just to cross to another platform which was only yards away.

"It is encouraging that the station has now resolved the problem, but Ms Cleary's experience is by no means unusual and shows how far we still have to go before disabled people enjoy equal access to public transport."



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