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If you hear anyone complaining about the strike in UK’s Southern Rail, let me share three experiences i have had on driver-only operated trains.

1: On the Stanstead Express, the doors closed on my guide dog. She jumped forward onto the platform and the door closed onto my arm. I was just realising i would have to let go of the lead and leave her alone on the platform when the assistance i had booked spotted us and screamed at the driver to stop.
2: On a DART in Dublin, no assistance showed up to get me off the train. I hadn’t been put in a designated wheelchair space, so had no access to an emergency intercom. I was left on the train until it reached the terminus and the train was abandoned. I rang the station i had started, and eventually i was taken off the train and put in a taxi to get to my destination.
3: My local train station is often unstaffed as a “cost-cutting” measure, especially for the earliest and latesttrains. Thes trains are also the ones which don’t carry ticket inspectors, so the driver is the only Iarnrod Eireann employee around. One evening, a young driver did his best to get me onto the train using the ramp used for getting the catering trolley on and off. However, the driver had never used the ramp before, and had probably not been trained to do so. It was the wrong way round, so when my front wheels reached the train, the back wheels pushed the ramp away behind me. The driver managed to catch the back of the chair before it crashed onto the platform. Ever since, i have made double sure of the ramp’s stability before going near it.
For all this, i’m very glad i don’t have to use the next station down the line. Dromod is permanently unstaffed, and has two platforms connected by an overhead footbridge with loads of steps and no lift. If you use a wheelchair and want to use this station, you have to call well in advance so that the train pulls into the right platform.
Fewer staff always leads to worse accessibility.

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About Isolde

Writer, Artist and Story Archaeologist living in Co. Leitrim, in the rural West of Ireland. My personal blog, AccessAdventures, features random rantings about the daily entertainment that is being a visually impaired (blind) wheelchair user (cripple). My professional blog, StoryArchaeology, is with my colleague, Chris Thompson, uncovering the layers of Irish Mythology in podcasts and accompanying articles. My arts practice is currently featured on isoldecarmodyarts.youtube.com - maybe a blog here will follow... I am preparing "A Real Irish Woman's Book of Days" (realirishwomen.wordpress.com) to go live for 2016.

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