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Disabled passengers threaten legal action against TOCs for ‘blanket ban’ on scooters

A disabled rail passegner is threatening to sue the three operators that ban mobility scooters on their trains, and are promoting their campaign at a demonstration at Victoria station today (1 December).

To launch the action, Gina Vettese, a scooter user, will lead other disabled passengers and Transport for All members in a ‘musical action’ through the station to present a letter to Gatwick Express urging a policy change.

Vettese is also taking legal action against Northern Rail after the company allegedly forbade her boarding the train unless she folded her scooter and carried it as luggage, despite her mobility impairment.

Northern Rail, Gatwick Express and Grand Central are three of the 27 operators still using a blanket ban on scooter users, with most other TOCs allowing small scooters, making staff available for individual assistance or providing alternative transport options.

Faryal Velmi, director of Transport for All, said it’s “discriminatory and unfair” that these operators “refuse even the smallest scooters onto their trains”.

“Modern mobility scooters are in many cases smaller and lighter than wheelchairs, and just as manoeuvrable. We hope that these companies will work with us to develop a new approach that will allow disabled people like Gina to travel with the same freedom and independence as everyone else.”

But a spokesperson for Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which operates Southern and Gatwick Express services, said the 1980s-built Class 442s used on the Gatwick Express route “simply aren’t large enough” for scooters that can’t be folded up, since the train doorways are too narrow and there isn’t enough turning space inside.

“But we are committed to improving accessibility for everyone across our network and from spring next year will replace the trains with a new modern fleet that will be able to accommodate mobility scooters within the usual size and weight limits,” they added.

“Meanwhile, passengers with scooters can travel with us to and from Gatwick on our frequent Southern services. There are also Thameslink trains to and from Gatwick, from London Bridge.

“We have invested heavily across the network to make the railway more accessible with station projects such as lifts, ramps and low-level ticket office windows. We are introducing four new train fleets and all of these are fully compliant with the latest disability legislation.”


Commenting on this, a Transport for All spokesperson said: “We welcome Gatwick Express’s commitment to replacing old trains in their fleet with more accessible and spacious trains.

“In researching this issue, we visited a Gatwick Express train with a member who uses a small mobility scooter. It would have been a tight fit, but she definitely would have been able to access the train. Mobility scooters come in all shapes and sizes. While we recognise that many won’t be able to fit onto the 442 trains, some modern, lightweight scooters can do.

“We invite Gatwick Express staff to meet some of our scooter using members at a station and see for themselves that we can board their trains. We hope that they will be open-minded enough to revisit this policy and enable us to travel without discrimination.”

The spokesperson also floated the idea of running trials with scooter users on existing trains.

Transport for All has previously written to the company on behalf of affected passengers. It asked it to change its policy, employ assistance staff across the network and investigate Vettese’s experience.

Vettese said: “In this day and age, it is a ridiculous policy to restrict the movement of mobility scooter users. We do not use scooters as fashion accessory. They are a much-needed aid when many of us are not able to use wheelchairs.

“I was upset and frustrated when Northern Rail wouldn’t let me onto their train, and talking to their customer care felt like talking to a brick wall. I’m taking action because I do not want this to happen to anyone else.”

But a Northern Rail spokesperson stressed that the operator is committed to improving access to its network, despite already being able to carry wheelchairs and folded scooters carried as a piece of luggage.

The spokesperson added:  “We do not ask customers to carry on the folded scooter themselves. If they are travelling alone or require assistance, our train crew team will be happy to assist with loading and unloading. As we operate several different types of trains and our services call at over 500 stations with a variety of platform heights, this can cause safety issues when driving a mobility scooter on or off a train with a low platform. 

 “Unfortunately, the trains we operate were built before the introduction of mobility scooters and were therefore not designed with them in mind. However, we will continue to review our policy to take account of any future developments in either our train fleet or mobility scooter design.

 “As part of an industry-wide Passenger Assist program, we encourage our customers who may require assistance when travelling on our services, to contact us before they travel on 0808 156 1606 to see how we can help.”


Speaking to RTM, a Grand Central spokesperson said the operator is currently in the process of refreshing its Disabled Peoples Protection Policy with the Office of Rail and Road. Currently, due to the configuration of its Class 180 and HST trains, the company is only able to accommodate scooters up to 70cm wide and 120cm in length.

The spokesperson added: "We recognise that scooters come in a variety of shapes and sizes and we try to accommodate these on board our trains. All of our trains have a legally compatible wheelchair space, however there is a limitation on the footprint available to allow access to this space.  In the situation where the wheelchair or scooter is larger than these dimensions then these will not be able to access the coach from the vestibule area."

But train staff are available to help customers board trains and assist throughout the journey, the spokesperson said: "We work closely with station operators to ensure a joined up journey experience. We encourage customers whenever possible to pre-book journey assistance."

(Top image: one of the Transport for All members on a scooter)


Marcia Money   01/12/2015 at 15:25

If someone is so disabled that they cannot walk, why not have a wheelchair with an add-on motor that can be removed to lighten the weight as my daughter does? The ramps used on trains have to be light enough for one person to lift and are not strong enough to take some large people on scooters. Who is to blame if the ramp breaks? Maybe train companies should make available a chart of all the scooters available in this country including the weight of the battery and any baggage it will carry. This info. to go vertically up & down the page and weight across the top (in lbs & Kgs). Surely this would not be too hard to read? Then there is always the phone if in doubt. Signed A responsible scooter user.

Mavis   20/04/2016 at 16:12

Marcia money you are not a responsible scooter user on my local trains it depends who is the guard and what mood is he/she in as I have been refused permission to get on a train on my scooter yet at the station at the bottom of my back garden I have seen scooters allowed on the train also locally scooters are allowed on the local buses if you have a permit from your local bus company

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