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Last Updated: Monday, 6 February 2006, 18:34 GMT
Disabled train users 'railroaded'
First ScotRail
Disabled train users were advised to book in advance
Cyclists are being given precedence over disabled people on the Fife circle train route, according to a leading charity in Edinburgh.

David Griffiths, chief executive of ECAS, said he was "outraged" there was only a combined bike and wheelchair area on the busy commuter route trains.

He said it was "farcical" that a bike rack could only be removed to make way for a wheelchair by using a tool kit.

First ScotRail said disabled users should try to book 24 hours in advance.

It is completely morally wrong that a cyclist comes first
David Griffiths
ECAS chief executive

Mr Griffiths of ECAS, formerly the Edinburgh Cripple Aid Society, said he would "fight" to change the present system which means disabled users are unable to make a journey without warning the train operator.

He said: "If I want to go on a day out with a colleague to Fife then we cannot decide on the day as we have to give all this notice.

"It makes me angry as it is totally wrong. The wheelchair space should be free at all times. It is completely morally wrong that a cyclist comes first.

"Other trains don't share their bike rack space with wheelchair users. Disabled people are meant to be inclusive in our society but here they are being put alongside bikes. Its outrageous."

Book in advance

A spokesman for First ScotRail, which runs trains on the Fife circle route, said: "We recommend that customers who require assistance book in advance so that arrangements can be made.

"In line with the vast majority of other train operating companies, and as highlighted by National Rail Enquiries website on information on travel assistance for disabled passengers, First ScotRail asks for 24 hours' notice of journeys - if possible.

"Our customers take precedence over cycles, which will be removed for wheelchair users.

"Our staff do their best to provide assistance, and the trains are designed in accordance with latest accessibility regulations."

Adam Gaines, Scottish director of the Disability Rights Commission, said: "Accessible public transport is essential to enable disabled people to live independent lives.

"Wheelchair users should not have to plan their lives 24 hours in advance. If you are going on a day out into Fife, or an evening out in Edinburgh, you don't always know in advance what train you want to get home."

He said that the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) requires all service-providers to make access easier for disabled people

The act covers railway stations but not trains which must be fully accessibly by 2020.

However from December public transport providers cannot discriminate against disabled people by treating them less favourably than a non-disabled person, Mr Gaines said.

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