Doug Paulley

Wheelchair user and residential care user, sometimes thorn in the side of authorities.

Sep 012017

Cambridge Council’s August taxi licensing newsletter (pdf) has this correction.

In the March 2017 edition of the Taxi newsletter we published an article entitled ’Important Changes to Equality Law’. The article concerned the recent changes to equality law and the duties imposed on drivers of wheelchair accessible vehicles.
Following publication of the newsletter it came to light we made an error in this article, which we would now like to rectify.
For clarification, the requirements for drivers of wheelchair accessible taxi and private hire vehicles are a policy requirement and not a legal requirement: (their emphasis)

  • Transport wheelchair users in their wheelchair
  • Provide passengers in wheelchairs with appropriate assistance
  • Charge wheelchair users the same as non-wheelchair users

This is very different from their March newsletter:

"Transport accessibility" section in Cambridge council's March 2017 newsletter

Excerpt from March 2017 newsletter

From the 6th April 2017 …In a change to the law, drivers found to be discriminating against wheelchair users face fines of up to £1,000 as part of provisions being enacted from the Equality Act.


The same “error” is still present in Cambridge Council’s Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy, and in their Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Taxi Handbook.

15.7 The Equality Act 2010 places certain duties on licensed drivers to provide assistance to people in wheelchairs and to carry them safely. There are similar requirements on drivers in relation to the treatment of passengers with an assistance dog. Neither drivers nor operators of licensed vehicles can make any extra charge or refuse to carry such passengers.

Legislative provisions and legal requirements

Drivers of wheelchair accessible vehicles must:

  • Carry a passenger seated in a wheelchair
  • Charge wheelchair users the same fare as non-wheelchair users; the meter, where used, must only be started when the journey begins

Despire correcting their newsletter, the Council has not corrected their Policy or Handbook.

Why have the Council not implemented the new taxi wheelchair law?

The Council would have to create a list of the wheelchair accessible taxis licensed by them. The drivers of said taxis would then be subject to this law. But the Council has chosen not to produce the list. (For more info, see my blog on the subject.)

The strong implication is that the Council told all taxi drivers they would be subject to this law, but changed its mind when it realised it would have to do some minor office work.

Taxi drivers in their area are not subject to a criminal law obligation against discriminating against wheelchair users (as intended by Parliament) all because the Council refuses to do some office work.

What message does that give to disabled people?

Aug 222017

If anybody feels that an organisation may have failed to follow the Data Protection Act whilst dealing with their data, they can ask the ICO for an assessment about whether that processing is likely to have been OK or not, under S42 of the Data Protection Act. The ICO are obliged to respond unless they need the subject to supply more ID or more explanation as to what processing the subject’s concerned about. Those are the ONLY exemptions the ICO can use to avoid having to undertake a S42 assessment.

S42.2 On receiving a request under this section, the Commissioner shall make an assessment in such manner as appears to him to be appropriate, unless he has not been supplied with such information as he may reasonably require in order to—
(a) satisfy himself as to the identity of the person making the request, and
(b) enable him to identify the processing in question.

It is usually a good idea for the data subject to complain to the data controller before bothering the ICO. It’s often probably the best way to get the issue resolved speedily and with the least of fuss, to the benefit of both the data controller and the data subject. It also means that the ICO are less likely to be swamped with S42 requests about stuff that could have been sorted a lot easier by a simple email.

However, that isn’t appropriate in all cases.

My reading of the Act is that the ICO are under an obligation to respond to a data subject’s S42 request for assessment irrespective of whether the data subject has complained to the data controller. The ONLY factors they can take into consideration as to whether they must undertake an assessment or not, is whether they have enough ID to be confident the data subject is who (s)he says (s)he is, and whether they’ve been given enough information to identify the processing in question.

S42 lists other factors that the authority can take into account – but these factors are only to be taken into account when considering how the authority will go about the assessment, not IF they will undertake an assessment. They still have to do the assessment, irrespective of these factors. But in any case, these factors do not include whether or not the data subject has made a complaint to the data controller.

S42.3 The matters to which the Commissioner may have regard in determining in what manner it is appropriate to make an assessment include—
(a) the extent to which the request appears to him to raise a matter of substance,
(b) any undue delay in making the request, and
(c) whether or not the person making the request is entitled to make an application under section 7 in respect of the personal data in question.

So as far as I’m concerned, the law does not give the ICO latitude to insist data subjects complain to the data controller before submitting a S42 request. It doesn’t allow the ICO to refuse to undertake an assessment where the data subject hasn’t submitted a complaint direct to the data controller.

I submitted a S42 request recently, having not complained to the data controller first. The ICO responded:

I note that you also sent us a copy of an email received from ‘Charity Checkout’, which appears to be a trading name of ‘Online Giving Ltd’.  There is no other copy correspondence to show that you have raised a concern with ‘Online Giving Ltd’ in writing and allowed time for its response. You would need to do this before the ICO could progress any concern about this third organisation.

I remonstrated:

This approach is not in compliance with obligations under S42 of the Data Protection Act, which states:

I parroted the above in detail, showing that the ICO cannot legitimately insist on subjects complaining to the controller before the ICO is obliged to conduct an assessment.

It always bugs me when the ICO state that they will not make a S42 assessment unless the data subject has raised their concern with the data controller. This is evidently ingrained and standard practice in the ICO, but it has no basis in law. No doubt the ICO would like it to be in the law, acts as if it is the law and doubtless often it achieves a speedier resolution if the data subject  complains to the data controller, but the fact is that the Information Commissioner is obliged to undertake an assessment whether or not the data subject has raised their concern with the data controller.

As the ICO expects and requires data controllers to comply with the detail of the Data Protection Act, it should do so itself. S42 does not give the Commissioner the right to reject S42 requests on the basis that the data subject has not raised a concern with the data controller. That’s the letter of the law, and the ICO should comply with it.

Please register a complaint that the ICO’s standard practice in this specific is not in compliance with the Commissioner’s obligation under S42 of the Data Protection Act.

They gave their final response:

You are dissatisfied with this approach and do not consider that section 42 of the Act allows the ICO to require that you contact the organisation prior to requesting an assessment.

My Findings

The requirement for individuals to have raised their concerns with the organisation involved is part of the ICO’s operational policy, rather than being written into the legislation.

You will appreciate that the ICO has limited resources, and we cannot take action in response to every concern reported to us. Ultimately our role is to improve information rights practices, and we put our efforts into taking action in those areas where we can make the biggest improvement to the practice of those we regulate. We are an independent body and do not work on behalf of individuals

As explained on our website, we believe that the organisation responsible for a data protection matter should deal with it in the first instance. We expect organisations to take concerns seriously and work with the data subject to try to resolve them. Most organisations will want to put things right when they have gone wrong, and learn from complaints that are raised with them – further, it is best practice for them to have an effective complaints procedure.

If the organisation has been unable, or unwilling, to resolve an information rights concern, the data subject can then raise the matter for us to evaluate whether there is an opportunity to improve information rights practice.

For all of these reasons we are committed to giving organisations the opportunity to respond to public concerns before they are raised with us as the regulator.

I trust that this explains our approach.

Well yes, it explains their approach, but it doesn’t explain how their approach complies with the legislation, which was the sole point in my complaint. “We think our approach is better” isn’t a valid response to a complaint that said approach is not in accordance with their legal obligations.

However, they have successfully stonewalled me through their single-stage complaints procedure, so they won’t consider the issue any further. I wouldn’t want to bother the ombudsmen, partly as I haven’t experienced sufficient harm and in any case, as the ICO pointed out – “If your complaint relates to the way in which we have interpreted the law then the Ombudsman cannot help you.” The only further avenue suggested was, “If you want to challenge our interpretation of the law, you should consider seeking legal advice.” They presumably know that it doesn’t merit that.

I’m therefore reduced to publishing a whiny blog explaining how I’ve been wronged, on an obscure part of the Internet where nobody will read it — similar to the likes of Alan Dransfield.

But I still think I’m right, that the ICO are failing to comply with their legal obligations, and that they have succeeded in their intent of stonewalling me throughout the statutory procedures ostensibly designed to make sure they take on board complainants’ legitimate concerns and change accordingly. (Again, just like Dransfield. Perhaps we’re long-lost relatives or something.)

Aug 062017

I’m going on a trip up the Far North line to Orkney. As this is somewhat of a special trip, I decided to go First Class where possible (I booked 3 months in advance with split ticketing to make it affordable.)

As ever with the rail industry, my need for wheelchair access meant booking was not straightforward. I was given contradictory information from four different train operating companies, which resulted in multiple attempted and failed assistance bookings. I ended up buying multiple spurious tickets because different rail staff told me that there are / are not wheelchair spaces in First Class on the various legs.

In the end, the (very helpful) Transport Integration Manager at TransPennine Express sent an email round to his equivalents at Scotrail, VTEC, Northern and (later) RDG to attempt to sort out the horrible mess of broken assistance bookings and duplicate tickets.

Scotrail’s (then) Head of Access and Inclusion, responded with this extraordinary ad hominem attack.

Mr Paulley advised in all circumstances that he knew both ScotRail and VTEC had no first class for journeys he wanted to make including knowledge that ScotRail portion did not do seat reservation.

He pointed out that he had booked first class tickets on our website but I know he would have noticed that there is warning about first class wheelchair spaces.

We did another digging and found that he also send a Textphone request now saying he booked his tickets on Northern website.

I plan to go over the next telephone conversation as his request is that we pay him £7k for not meeting ORR requirements and he took information from approval letter of 2016 something baseless.


I’m not going to bore everybody by refuting each allegation, nor extemporise on the clearly unacceptable manner in which a senior member of Scotrail staff libelled me to senior managers in other train operating companies, but the “something baseless” extract from the Office of the Rail and Road, and the claim of a warning on Scotrail’s website, are worryingly and demonstrably inaccurate.

The Office of Rail and Road wrote to Scotrail in the May 2016 decision letter approving Scotrail’s Disabled People’s Protection Policy:

Following information received by ORR during the review of your DPPP, we also asked you to clarify how you ensure that passengers using a wheelchair are not able to buy a first class ticket which in practical terms they may not be able to make use of. This is due to restrictions in the accommodation meaning wheelchair users would need to be able to transfer to a seat. You have advised that you have now updated your DPPP passenger document and the accessible travel and first class ticket pages of your website to make this clear. You have also told us you will make the restriction clear when customers are going through the ticket booking process on your website, and that your staff are aware of the restriction when selling tickets in person.

You have also told us that you will correct the information on National Rail Enquiries that stated first class accommodation was available for wheelchair users, as this information is incorrect. Please inform us when the National Rail Enquiries site has been updated and when your online booking process has been changed. We would expect this to be completed within three months of the date of this letter, and will get in touch with you to ensure this work has been completed.

Clearly their website and their staff should have warned me that there aren’t any wheelchair spaces in First Class on Scotrail’s services.

I think this shows that Scotrail have as much contempt for wheelchair users, as they already demonstrated they hold for the ORR and for me personally.

Jun 182017

I fancied a trip so I thought I would try booking the above Sleeper. I’d read that whilst their old stock has no accessible sleeper accommodation, their new stock does, with an adapted cabin and shower. Their standard cabins are not accessible for wheelchair users, as the following from Matt and Vicki demonstrates

So I phoned Great Western Railway’s (GWR’s) assisted travel help line, to find out if the train I want to catch will have an accessible cabin. In the process, I discovered:

Locomotive-hauled rolling stock (Sleeper services)

There are no accessible berths.

Note: During the financial year 2015/16, the sleeper rolling stock is being refurbished which will include an upgrade of the existing accessible toilet in the seated accommodation and the provision of an accessible toilet and separate accessible cabin within the sleeper accommodation.

I recorded the phone conversation, and kept a transcript of the text direct call. It took 1 hour 22 minutes, and I still didn’t get told whether the service has an accessible cabin or not. They persisted in telling me that every cabin is wheelchair accessible nine times, even after I had convinced him to read GWR’s own leaflet that states it isn’t.

In the following transcript, my speech is in normal text, the relay operator’s is in italics, and GWR assistance department’s speech is in bold.

  • Note from relay assistant You are in a queue, do you wish to hold or try later?
  • Hold please
  • Pls wait… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… ringing…Explaining Text Relay, please wait…
  • Hello, it’s David from GWR Assisted Travel, how may I help?
  • Hello, please can you tell me if the sleeper tonight has a wheelchair accessible cabin on it and if so if it is still available?
  • OK, please hold the line, I need to check. I’ll be as quick as I can…
  • Note from relay assistant Holding… Holding…
  • Sorry to keep… I’ve checked, it will have a wheelchair bay but we can’t check for this evening as we don’t have enough time to arrange.
  • I am not interested in the wheelchair bay, I asked about the wheelchair accessible cabin. You have previously told me that you cannot tell until 8pm on the day of travel whether the train involved will be one of the refurbished ones with an accessible cabin on. So please find out if this one has an accessible cabin on it.
  • My apologies, I am not able to find that information. My manager has advised that we can’t find this out at this late stage.
  • Wait. Previously, your manager told me that they can’t find out until 8pm on the evening of departure. Now your manager is telling you that you can’t find out at 9pm. Are you saying that there is only an hour a day when you actually have this information, or what? In fact: put me through to your manager please.
  • Please hold the line one moment…
  • Note from relay assistant Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding…
  • Hello, thanks for holding. I’ve double checked with a manager and sales team, who have tried to book the chair accessible cabin for this evening, and confirmed it’s not possible for this evening, and my apologies.
  • I still want to speak to your manager please.
  • OK, I will check he’s free to take your call. Please hold.
  • You might want to tell him that if he doesn’t I am going to write a letter before action for disability discrimination counter to the Equality Act 2010 for failing to make a reasonable adjustment to a provision, criterion or practice that makes it unreasonably difficult for wheelchair users to use GWR’s service.
  • Note from relay assistant we are on hold, however I will read your comment when agent or manager returns.
  • OK.
  • Holding… Holding…
  • Hello, thanks for holding. My manager is not free right now as he needs to look into this and to confirm what you’ve been told previously. We will now need to call you back which will now be tomorrow, it can be arranged for a time convenient to you or before 12 noon tomorrow.
  • Don’t bother, I will jump straight to a letter before action under the Equality Act 2010 for failure to make a reasonable adjustment to a provision, criteria or policy that makes it unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to use GWR’s services. I have had enough of this ridiculous difficulty in booking the sleeper cabin, anybody would think that disabled people have only just been invented. I have been attempting to book this stupid cabin all blooming week. Right. Book me in tomorrow night.
  • OK, I’ll get a manager to call you back tomorrow evening and what time is convenient?
  • No, I specifically said I do not want a manager to phone me back. Do not call me back. No time is convenient. I do not want anybody to call me back. I shall simply start the legal procedure. in the meantime, do what I said – I’ve given you more than 24 hours notice now: book me in for the sleeper for tomorrow night.
  • OK, for booking a sleeper that will have to be done through our telesales team. I can transfer the call through so can take your…
  • Break. This is an assistance booking system. You are required under your licence with the ORR via the DPPP to book assistance and tickets in one go. So go ahead and book the assistance now. The wheelchair accessible cabin. Not the wheelchair space, the cabin. Go ahead and book it for tomorrow’s sleeper right now, don’t put me through to telesales.
  • To book the cabin it has to be purchased by our telesales team. I cannot do this myself.
  • I shall make sure that it is also in the legal letter, copied to the ORR, that you are not complying with your licence conditions to be able to book the wheelchair cabin directly with the assisted travel team. Meanwhile I shall purchase the cabin ticket online as we speak. Book the assistance now, please. Am I getting through, can I be any clearer? You are the assistance booking people. Book the assistance now.
  • Can I take your post code please?
  • [postcode redacted]
  • Thanks, and now your full name and first line of the address.
  • Doug Paulley, [address redacted]
  • That’s great. And now your journey details.
  • I am on the sleeper tomorrow. Paddington to Penzance.
  • That’s great, bear with me …
  • Firstly, please tell me whether the sleeper is one of the refurbished ones that actually has a wheelchair accessible cabin or not.
  • I’ll check all that ..please hold the line.
  • It’s been 30 minutes on this call so far, do you think you could just blooming do it?
  • Note from relay assistant I’m so sorry, we are on hold again.
  • Not your fault, and I am sorry for putting you through transcribing what must be quite a difficult and stressful call.
  • Not at all, and can I apologise for my speed as I have two damaged fingers after playing cricket.
  • ouch! I sympathise. no problem.
  • thanks…Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding… Holding…
  • Hello sir, thanks for holding. I have spoken to some people including our control team, and everything they have advised is telling me it will be wheelchair accessible.
  • OK, so please go ahead and book the accessible cabin. I will pay for the ticket online. and please book all the assistance.
  • OK, I’ll book the assistance now. What I have been advised, all of the cabins will be wheelchair accessible.
  • Ridiculous. Ridiculous. Look on your own website. The old sleeper stock had NO wheelchair accessible cabins. The new one has ONE accessible cabin on it. Even your own web site says that! If you book me a non-accessible cabin I will be absolutely incensed. Do not do that. Find out if there is an accessible cabin or not.
  • As I have been advised that all of the cabins are wheelchair accessible, I’m sure you understand I can only go off the information of what I have been advised of.
  • Look. There is no way on this earth that all the cabins are accessible. I am directly informing you that this is not the case. Your website says similar. Go off the information you are being advised by the GWR website, by the Disabled People’s Protection Policy, and by me. Your old stock sleepers have no accessible cabins. The renovated ones have one accessible cabin. This is most definitely the case, I have seen the plans, I have seen the videos even, I have read GWR’s DPPP, I have read it on your website. For once and for all: Old stock sleepers have no accessible cabins in them. New stock sleepers have one accessible cabin. Either tell me that it’s an old stock sleeper, or tell me it’s a new stock sleeper and book the accessible cabin. It’s not your fault you’ve been given duff information, but it’s not mine either and I will sue GWR for this.
  • As I have advised, I have been told that all of the cabins are wheelchair accessible, and I can only book assistance on and off the train and to a cabin, but I can not book a specific cabin as I have said that all cabins are wheelchair accessible.
  • All cabins are not wheelchair accessible. I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall here! You are supposed to be the assistance department and yet you think that all cabins on your sleeper are accessible! Whomever has told you that is fundamentally incorrect. How many times do I have to say it? Only one of the cabins is wheelchair accessible, and that is only on your new refurbished sleepers at that. Do not tell me again that all cabins are accessible as it is demonstrably not the case and you are winding me up even further. It is simply not true.
  • I apologise for this inconvenience and hassle, but I can only advise you what I have been told.
  • You must book the sleeper with the accessible cabin. how often do I have to repeat myself? Do it. If your bosses don’t know how to do it, then knock the managing director out of bed. Speak to a guard. Do whatever you need to do, but do not tell me that all cabins are accessible, because they aren’t. You clearly have never seen the sleeper yourself, nor the people you’ve spoken to, because it’s just ludicrous to claim that all the cabins are wheelchair accessible. Sort it out.
  • As I have advised, I can not book a specific cabin, I can only book assistance to a cabin, and the info I have been advised of that all cabins are wheelchair accessible. if you wish to purchase the tickets and the cabin, I will be happy to book you assistance, however i can not book a specific cabin.
  • Passenger Assist allows you to book a specific cabin, just as it allows any third party Train Operating Company or ticket agent to book a specific cabin, but in the meantime in any case you are the assisted travel department and I require you to inform me which coach and which cabin number is the assisted wheelchair accessible cabin. Do not tell me again that all the cabins are accessible, it is not the case.
  • The system will not allow me to book a specific cabin, and as I have told you, I have been advised that all the cabins are wheelchair accessible, and I am sorry this is not the information you have been told previously or found by other means.
  • The system will allow you to book a specific cabin, it is just that you don’t know how. I know the service specification of passenger assist inside out, just like I know your operator license, the obligations set by the office of the rail and road and the disabled person’s protection policy, and you have the ability to A) tell me which of the cabins is wheelchair accessible if there is one on the train, and B) to book it. Do so. Do not repeat yourself again, just do the job. If you can’t, knock somebody up who can. Do not come back to me and say “all I can do is go by what I’ve been told, all cabins are accessible”. Do not come back to me and say “the system doesn’t allow me to book specific cabins”. I know for a fact that both are incorrect. I have seen the sleeper with my own eyes, for Goodness’ sake! There is no way you can get a wheelchair in any cabin except the one adapted one on refurbished stock. Do not parrot the same thing back to me again: sort the problem.
  • I am sorry, however the system will not allow me to book a specific cabin. I cannot comment on any of your experiences with our system, however I have been shown how to book seats and under the same area it does not give me any options to book a specific cabin. I am so sorry that you feel that I am repeating myself, however I can only go off what I have been advised.
  • Can I break in please? OK. I am now quoting directly from GWR’s booklet “Making rail accessible: helping older customers and people with a disability”. Quote. “Locomotive-hauled rolling stock (Sleeper services) Mainline routes from London Paddington to Penzance. Designated Wheelchair Position: There is one wheelchair space with nearby seating for a companion in coach B. There are no accessible berths.” There is a note further on: “Note: During the financial year 2015/16, the sleeper rolling stock is being refurbished which will include an upgrade of the existing accessible toilet in the seated accommodation and the provision of an accessible toilet and separate accessible cabin within the sleeper accommodation.” So: how come you say that all cabins are accessible? Your old stock have no accessible berths at all. Your new stock has one, “a”, separate accessible cabin. One. Your own leaflet says so, in black and white, right in front of me. So whatever you have been told, by whomever, is demonstrably untrue and I require you to find out if the train tomorrow will have an accessible berth on it, or not. Do NOT come back to me and say that all the berths are accessible, or that you can only go off what you’ve been told. I am requiring you to find out for me, and not to accept what untrue information you have been provided. Clear?
  • I am sorry that you feel that the information that I have provided is untrue, however I am not aware of the leaflet you are reading and can only advise you of what I’ve been told. I am sorry, but all I can do is book you assistance on and off the train and to a cabin, as I have been advised that all cabins are wheelchair accessible. If you wish to escalate this further I will have to advise of either a manager’s call back, or you can submit a complaint in writing to either our Freepost address or our email address.
  • For Goodness’ sake. I will not be speaking to a manager or writing a complaint, it will go straight to legal. To be clear: you are David from the GWR assisted travel team. You are not aware of the leaflet “Making rail accessible: Helping older customers and people with a disability” which is held by GWR, is the key leaflet giving information on accessibility of GWR’s services and is half of the Disabled People’s Protection Policy, as mandated by the Office for Rail and Road within the Train Operating Company Licence, and is directly on the assisted travel page on your website. You have never read the leaflet that is about GWR’s accessible provision? And you are directly refusing to check that what you have been told is true? Even though I have given you incontrovertible evidence that it is most decidedly not the case that all of your sleeper berths are wheelchair accessible? Quoting your own leaflet on the subject? Why are you refusing to double-check? Are you that scared of your bosses? Because believe me, you will get it in the neck as will the rest of GWR when I issue for failure to make a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010.
  • I have now found the leaflet online, and I am looking at the section you refer to, and see what you are saying, however I have spoken with our control team who have advised that the service is wheelchair accessible. If you wish to take this through legal channels that will be your choice, and I cannot advise you to not do that, however as I have said I can only go off the information I have been told by our control team and managers.
  • Please go back to your control team and managers, quote what you have just read in that leaflet, and tell them that I want and need to know: A) Whether this is a refurbished train with an accessible cabin, and if so B) which coach and cabin number it is. Just to note that I have been on the call 73 minutes so far…
  • I understand, and I will raise what’s in the leaflet with our management and control team. However, they have advised it is, and all are wheelchair accessible.
  • Please go back to your control team and managers, quote what you have just read in that leaflet, and tell them that I want and need to know A) whether this is a refurbished train with an accessible cabin, and if so B) which coach and cabin number it is. What is it? Are you scared to phone them back? Have you been instructed not to bother them any more? Why is it that you are not challenging them?
  • Your call is being transferred to another relay assistant Reconnected to relay, pls wait…
  • So as I advised, I will raise this with our control team and our managers who will get this looked into, but I can only advise you of what they have told me, and that they have said all of the cabins are wheelchair accessible. I cannot tell you any other information than that. And as I have advised, if you would like to escalate this further, you will need to speak to one of our managers who can arrange a call back, or submit a complaint in writing, or alternatively you can go through your own channels if you wish.
  • I am phoning the assistance booking department. You are aware that your own literature states that there are no accessible berths on older stock and only one on newer stock. Yet you are not prepared to phone your managers and control team back to ask them to re-examine the situation. I still require the accurate information as to whether there is an accessible cabin on that train tomorrow night and if so which coach and cabin number it is. You have failed to explain why you are refusing to challenge your managers and the control team on what you have read and what you have heard from me, right now, in order to provide me with the information you are obliged to provide. Stop repeating that you can only tell me what you have been told, and find out the true information. Stop trying to tell me to write, or phone another time, or wait for a call back, or make a complaint, I want the information now, in this phone call. It is not an unreasonable request and you are just perpetuating the pain by making me carry on. Go back to your managers or the control team and find this information for me. By the way, I am of course recording both this phone call and the transcript.
  • OK, let me put you on hold for a few minutes please. Thank you.
  • 79 minutes!
  • Holding.
  • Hello Mr Paulley, I have spoken to our managers, and they have confirmed that this will be raised and it will also be raised with our control team. However, I am not willing to discuss this any further and I will have to terminate the call now. Thank you.
  • Other person has hung-up.

Non-wheelchair users can discover whether there’s a suitable berth for them and book it in seconds on the website or by phone…

Trapped Underground

 Underground  Comments Off on Trapped Underground
Jun 162017

I got Trapped Underground recently.

Incident report

Here’s an extract from the London Underground official report.

Incident Description :- At 1852 a wheelchair customer pressed the help point at the hub, bottom of escalators 16-19.
Lift #6 had been advertised as being out of service from 0629 this morning.
The gentleman complained that escalator 6 was out. CSM answered the call & explained that we have advertised that we are not step free on the TFL website.
The man asked what he should do & was given the suggestion that he take the Piccadilly Line lift to the platform, take a train to Caledonian Road & then take a bus down. He said that he’d miss his last train from KX.
This displeased him & he started saying that it should be on a board at every station & that he has sued LU twice & would do it again. I again repeated that it has been advertised to which he asked if he’s supposed to go online every time he travels?
Mid rant, the help point cut out. I could see him on CCTV still talking. Then he started hitting the emergency button repeatedly, which caused it to stick & the alarm go off continuously in the control room.
CSM , CSS & CSA started to make their way over to the hub, calling CSA to meet them there.
When they arrived, the man started going on about LU not caring about disabled people. “If it was an escalator out, it would be publicised everywhere, but because the lift is only for disabled people, you don’t care”.
I explained that the lifts are not just for disabled people. They are for anyone that wants to use them.
He again repeated that he’s sued LU twice & this will be number 3.
He said that he had a train to catch from KX & it was his last train tonight.
Rather than stand arguing with him, CSM asked CSAs & if they felt comfortable using the escalator to take the man up on his wheelchair. The man was rather large, but both agreed.
The man was taken up escalator 16.
He thanked the 2 CSAs at the top & went on his way, still talking lawsuits.
Findings of immediate investigation (basic cause) :- Lift 6 out of service for door repair.
Customer hadn’t bothered to check the TFL website before he travelled.

Other than the fact that I didn’t say that “it should be on a board at every station” (and of course that I am extremely slim and lithe 🙂 )  the report is largely correct. But it gives a very different flavour from the experience. Compare the cold hard report above from the real stressful experience in the video…

London Underground policy

I submitted a Freedom of Information Request:

Please provide me with your procedures and policy as to what you should do if a station’s lift goes out of order. The lift went out early morning, but there was no sign on the gates as to what to do, no warning at Green Park or Westminster or in the other lifts at Kings Cross and so on. When I pressed for help at the information point, staff had no existing plan as to how I could get to the surface, and had to think on their feet. I want to know what should have happened, at Kings Cross and elsewhere, as a result of step free access suddenly being withdrawn. I also want to know what actions you would take if the escalator or the stairs are broken or obstructed, so that I can compare and contrast your approaches. Please provide me with all of this information.

They supplied the following London Underground policies.
I’ll tick the relevant ones they did, and cross  the relevant ones they didn’t.
The ‘Station Presentation’ section of the Customer Service Supervisors / Managers Handbook states:

When a lift is out of service:

  • display a poster explaining that the lift is out of service
  • tell stations either side
  • display the information on the train operators boards

Use general information boards to tell customers of the out of service lift as they might choose to use alternative routes.

The London Underground Rule Book 11 (Station Management) states:

(In relation to customer information boards)

You must display on customer information boards (where possible) information about any disruptions to:

  • the train service
  • any station facilities.

(In relation to station PA announcements)

You must make sure the following information is given to customers:

  • train service details, including train destinations
  • if the destination of a train is to be changed in any way
  • advice on platform train interface safety
  • details of any facilities that are not available
  • customer flow and crowd control instructions (where appropriate)
  • details of evacuation procedures (when needed).

In terms of what staff should do to ensure that a disabled person can complete their journey in the event of a lift going out of service, there are a range of options, and the appropriate option to use will depend on the particular circumstances.

Rule Book 9 (Lifts, escalators and moving walkways) states:

There are several options for discussion with a wheelchair user when a station is being evacuated or their planned route is no longer viable due to severe service disruption. These can include any combination of the following:

  • boarding another accessible train
  • using other step free access, if available
  • waiting in a place of safety until the service resumes
  • to be assisted up a moving escalator by two members of staff.

Wheelchairs are only permitted to be carried in the up direction on escalators at designated stations, with trained staff.

If an alternative route is to be used, you must confirm:

  • the route is viable for the wheelchair user, and
  • staff will be available along the journey, where needed.

I put a against “to be assisted up a moving escalator” because I wasn’t offered that; I was simply told to catch the tube to Caledonian Road and a bus back and “there’s nothing else we can do.” Only when I mashed the emergency button until it broke did they pull the escalator option out of the hat.

The ‘Managing Customer Service’ part of the Operational Manager Handbook states:

You can book a special taxi, for example, in the following circumstances:

  • operational requirements
  • staff ill health issues
  • for customers (for example, a customer taken ill or last train cancelled)
  • for disabled customers if they are unable to use part of the network that is usually accessible to them


  • If a lift at a step-free station is out of order, it might be appropriate to arrange a special taxi to help a disabled customer make part or all of their journey

Taxis booked on an ad hoc basis are called ‘special taxis’ to differentiate them from scheduled taxis.

In relation to stairs, if the stairs are broken or obstructed such that they can’t be used and there is no alternative route, the station would be closed.

In relation to escalators, comparisons with lifts are difficult because often there is more than one escalator in the same direction in a bank, so it is rare that there will be no escalator access. However, the point about booking a special taxi applies.

The ‘Managing customer service’ part of the Customer Service Supervisors / Managers Handbook states:

Non-availability of step-free access


London Underground has a legal obligation to provide alternative transport to a disabled customer if transport which is usually accessible to that customer becomes inaccessible.

If a customer who needs step-free access cannot use a step-free station and therefore cannot reach their step-free destination for one of the following reasons:

  • a lift is out of service
  • there is a planned closure
  • there is service disruption or a station closure (which means that a disabled customer would have a more difficulty continuing their journey)


  • an escalator or lift is out of service resulting in a disabled person, who is normally able to use a station is no longer able to
  • a disabled customer has experienced significant disruption to their journey (for example they were inadvertently sent to an inaccessible station and couldn’t alight)

Make sure they are given help to plan an alternative accessible journey.


  • whether there is a bus or a rail replacement bus service which will take them to a step-free station en route (where they can continue their journey) or to their destination or, and
  • whether the bus is accessible for the customer
  • the alternative station is accessible to them


A blue wheelchair logo on the Tube map means that a wheelchair user can board or alight. A white wheelchair logo means they are unlikely to be able to board or alight.

If there is a single accessible bus journey to the customer’s destination or a step-free station en route advise them of this. If there is not a single accessible bus journey you should offer an unscheduled taxi to the nearest available step free station en route or to their final destination if it is more practical.


Disabled customers are likely to experience a much longer delay to their journey than non-disabled customers when using alternative routes, if this is the case consider using an unscheduled taxi.

Oh look

I never got to use the tick ☑ 🙂

But of course, this whole thing was caused by the Hand of Fate and by my irresponsibility; as noted basic causes were “Lift 6 out of service for door repair. Customer hadn’t bothered to check the TFL website before he travelled.

I’m very sorry for the inconvenience I caused London Underground by my selfishness.

Mar 292017

Picture of a policeman's helmet in a bus wheelchair space

I’ve got West Yorkshire Police to recognise that a bus driver who refuses a wheelchair user access to an empty wheelchair space on a bus is committing a crime and should face punishment.

Disabled people, bus companies and drivers should all be made aware that such crimes should be reported to the Police.

The Police Crime Commissioner said:

I have heard back from West Yorkshire Police now. They have confirmed that bus drivers refusing access to wheelchair users is a summary only offence which can be enforced by the police.

Any reports of access issues would be logged and an enquiry conducted on the evidence available. Prosecutions could subsequently be considered.

The police would therefore encourage anyone to contact the police if they believe they have been a victim of this crime.

They have taken steps to ensure the Force’s Contact Centre staff are informed to ensure that any calls are handled appropriately.

Contact the Police by live chat, phone, SMS text or Text Direct.

Under the same legislation, drivers are also under a criminal law obligation to:

  • accept passengers with assistance dogs
  • allow a wheelchair user on to the bus even if the wheelchair space is occupied, if passengers and/or their effects in that space can readily and reasonably vacate it to another part of the vehicle
  • work a ramp or boarding lift (including by using the manual override if an electric mechanism is broken), when a wheelchair user wishes to get on or off, e.g. when a wheelchair user presses the special blue button to show they want to get off
  • help wheelchair users get on or off
  • enable wheelchair users to access and leave the wheelchair space
  • kneel the bus if they think a disabled person would benefit from it and/or if asked to do so
  • make sure the bus is displaying the correct route number and destination.

The above duties are criminal duties on a driver, separate and added to the duties under the Equality Act. Failure to comply with the duty may result in a driver’s criminal conviction, a fine of up to £500 and endorsements on the driving license.

I would encourage disabled people and their allies to contact other Police Forces / Police and Crime Commissioners, to encourage them to take similar proactive action.

Arriva Rail North’s antipathy to slopes

 Trains  Comments Off on Arriva Rail North’s antipathy to slopes
Mar 282017

I traveled to Salford today, after my interesting time booking my trip to visit my Dad. I fully expected a lot to go wrong. Sadly, I was right.

Inventive placement of reserved sign in the wheelchair space

The TransPennine from Leeds to Manchester was OK, except that the hand-dryer in the toilet was non-functional. One of the two wheelchair spaces was reserved for me; the other one was unreserved and unoccupied – so despite TransPennine’s staff claiming otherwise, there evidently was no reason why they couldn’t and wouldn’t book me in.

TransPennine didn’t bother putting a “slot” for the Reserved ticket in their train wheelchair spaces. Every standard seat, yes – but not in the wheelchair spaces. So staff have to get inventive about how and where they affix the reservation card.

Failed assistance

At Manchester Victoria everything unraveled as usual. The assistance I had spent so long booking didn’t turn up to get me off the train. The TransPennine train guard got the ramp himself. I then wandered around Manchester Victoria in a disorganised and lost fashion until I found the connecting train for Salford. With still no assistance staff around, the dispatch staff deployed the ramp and helped me on board.

National Rail Enquiries' station page for Salford Central station

National Rail Enquiries’ station page for Salford Central station

Then the guard came. The dispatch staff had evidently told him I was intending to get off at Salford Central, cos he told me that it is not possible for wheelchair users to get off at Salford Central. He said the platform is too low and it makes the ramp from the train to the platform too steep for safety.

TransPennine Assisted Travel had happily booked assistance for me to travel to Salford Central in my wheelchair; they evidently didn’t think there is a problem. Neither does National Rail Enquiries, which blithely notes there’s ramped access to the ticket office and all platforms, and a ramp available to get on or off a train.

Staff at Manchester Vic commented that it was not good that TransPennine assistance staff didn’t know about the access problems at Salford. Man Vic staff had a conflab about how to get me where I needed to be. It’s a 2 minute train ride so shouldn’t take long, but my meeting was in 12 minutes time, and even though there was a set of accessible taxis waiting outside the station, Arriva Rail North would have to call in their contracted firm whom typically took 20 minutes just to turn up.

So they put me on a bus. They told me the bus would take me direct to the venue, but that wasn’t the case. I had no idea where I was or where I was going, so it’s a good job the (very helpful) station staff gave me a map.

In the end, I turned up at the meeting 20 minutes late, instead of 10 minutes early.

I phoned a manager at TransPennine Express, who had dealt with my complaint about my booking experience. He tried to sort out how I would get home again afterwards (for which I am grateful.) He attempted to get TransPennine to book a taxi for the first leg home. The result was that whilst I was in my meeting, I received several embarrassing missed calls. When I eventually answered the phone (despite my hearing loss), TransPennine’s assisted travel team told me that TransPennine wouldn’t pay for a taxi because Salford Central is run by Arriva Rail North. He also said there are not normally any access problems at Salford.

I had to phone the TransPennine manager again, and he attempted the taxi booking again.

All of these phone conversations took place during my 3 hour window in Salford, during my meeting and lunch with my Dad. So not only did I have my journeys disrupted, it interrupted and spoilt my day out.

Levitation required

Ramps at Salford Central

I arrived at Salford Central a few minutes early for the return journey, so I thought I’d see what the problem was. They’ve spent a lot on modernising the building with impressive Approved Document M compatible ramps and lifts throughout the station. However, when a train came in, I could immediately see the problem for wheelchair access.

A Pacer at Salford Central station

A Pacer at Salford Central station

The warning on the platform edge says “Mind the Step“. I think it should say “Mind the Leap and the Bound” as well. That is one maHOOsive step.

It wasn’t just a problem for the hateful Pacer; it was the same with a Sprinter:

Pacer and Sprinter at Salford Central

The Sprinter’s floor is a little lower so it’s just at knee height and not the Pacer’s gonad height, but it’s still a significant height difference; and I would pity anybody (including me) attempting to push my bulk up a ramp onto it. (Sadly, when I became a wheelchair user the NHS had a temporary supply issue with jetpacks and their levitation therapist was off sick, so I missed those essential skills and equipment – and without it Salford Central station is pretty inaccessible.)

There are clear and undeniable problems that affect wheelchair access at Salford Central. Which leads me to question:

  • Why wasn’t the platform sorted when the rest of the station was renovated?
  • Why describe it as fully accessible when it isn’t?
  • Why did TransPennine’s staff member deny there is an issue?

Taxis and toilets

It was a good job that TransPennine’s taxi turned up. It wasn’t comfortable; as a very tall person in a wheelchair accessible cab, I have to travel backwards whilst hunched over. Comfy – not.

Doug in an “Accessible” Taxi

The trials didn’t end there: there was of course no toilet in the taxi, and the toilet on the Transpennine was out-of-order, so I had to wait until I got to Leeds.

I was exhausted so I decided to spoil myself with a taxi home. What a wonderful welcome I received at Leeds Station Taxi Rank!

“Wheelchairs cross here”

This looked familiar from 2015…

GETT booking history

I thought I’d wait a bit to see if anybody noticed it and sorted it out. But no, 2½ hours later, the cones were still there…

In the meantime I tried Gett. An app by which people in Leeds can book taxis. I recently asked Gett how I could book a wheelchair accessible taxi; they said to put my need in the “Notes for Drivers“.

Turns out that Gett drivers don’t bother reading the Notes. 4 drivers accepted the booking, then asked me to cancel when they realised I am a wheelchair user – one only when he turned up. When one of the previous four inaccessible cabs accepted my fifth attempt to book, I gave up.

The next time somebody says British public transport is effortlessly accessible…

tell them where to get off.



Law Requiring Accessibility of Taxis

 Disability Legal Action  Comments Off on Law Requiring Accessibility of Taxis
Mar 262017
Clamping into wheelchair spot in a minibus

With thanks to Dave Lupton / Crippen Disability Cartoons

Back in 1995, the Government put taxi accessibility requirements into the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), but didn’t commence the relevant sections. They said these are to be commenced “from days to be determined“. The provisions hadn’t been commenced 15 years later when the Equality Act replaced the DDA. And they still hadn’t been commenced in 2016, when the Equality Act and Disability Select Committee reported. Baroness Deech said it how it was – “It has been the will of Parliament for 20 years, 20 Years! that taxis be accessible. How many more decades is this going to take?

When the Committee reported in March 2016, the Government mumbled that they would commence the wheelchair taxi discrimination section of the Equality Act (s165). (I can’t say “announced” because it was not.) The Government confirmed this in their response to the Report in July 2016:

Having given careful consideration to the effects of commencing sections 165 and 167 of the Equality Act, including ensuring that drivers understand fully their responsibilities, we will now proceed to bring the measures into force, aiming for commencement by the end of 2016. This will provide wheelchair users with similar protection from discrimination as that already available to assistance dog owners – ensuring that they are provided with the assistance they need to access taxis and private hire vehicles, and that they can no longer be charged extra

S165 and S167 will become law on 6th April 2017 (not “by the end of 2016.”)

So wheelchair users should celebrate at their new-found enforceable rights to taxi travel, then?


S167 allows taxi licensing authorities to compile a list of accessible taxis and private hire vehicles. Note: the authority is not obliged to create such a list. If they produce such a list, and only if, then taxi drivers whose vehicle is on that list are obliged to comply with their duties under S165, those being:

(a) to carry the passenger while in the wheelchair;

(b) not to make any additional charge for doing so;

(c) if the passenger chooses to sit in a passenger seat, to carry the wheelchair;

(d) to take such steps as are necessary to ensure that the passenger is carried in safety and reasonable comfort;

(e) to give the passenger such mobility assistance as is reasonably required.

These duties only apply if and when the Local Authority produces a list of accessible taxis, and if the vehicle is on that list, and if the driver hasn’t been awarded an exemption from his or her duties due to medical problems. (Local Authorities have been obliged to process applications for such exemptions since 2010; a Kafkaesque situation that resulted in the Committee’s pithy remark: “taxi drivers can apply for exemption from duties which do not apply and which, since their enactment 20 years ago, have never applied.“)

The Government has recently produced guidance for local authorities to decide whether, how and when to produce a list of accessible taxis.

One would hope that they would recommend all local authorities to get on with it now – after all, they’ve had 20 years warning since the prospective was introduced into the DDA; 7 years since it was repeated in the Equality Act; and another twelve months since the Government said the sections would be commenced. Local authorities already have processes for issuing certificates exempting drivers from the existing obligation to take assistance dogs, and since 2010 have been obliged to have similar processes for driver exemptions to take wheelchair users; so the administrative burden of exempting wheelchair taxi drivers should be minimal.


we recognise that LAs (Local Authorities) will need time to put in place the necessary procedures to exempt drivers with certain medical conditions from providing assistance where there is good reason to do so, and to make drivers aware of these new requirements. In addition, LAs will need to ensure that their new procedures comply with this guidance, and that exemption notices are issued in accordance with Government regulations.

As such, we would encourage LAs to put in place sensible and manageable transition procedures to ensure smooth and effective implementation of this new law. LAs should only publish lists of wheelchair accessible vehicles for the purposes of section 165 of the Act when they are confident that those procedures have been put in place, drivers and owners notified of the new requirements and given time to apply for exemptions where appropriate. We would expect these arrangements to take no more than a maximum of six months to put in place, following the commencement of these provisions, but this will of course be dependent on individual circumstances.

So the obligations on taxi drivers won’t be in place unless and until the licensing Local Authority produces a list of accessible taxis. Local Authorities aren’t obliged to produce a list. If a Local Authority does produce a list, it may be six months before they do, or later if “individual circumstances” warrant it.

Whoopi – blooming – do. I am so grateful to Parliament for being so proactive in litigating for my transport rights.

There are so many holes even if the Local Authority does produce a list.

  • There is no obligation on local authorities, taxi firms or anybody else to increase the number of accessible taxis. The postcode lottery will continue.
    • There aren’t any wheelchair accessible taxis in the town where I live.
    • 100% of London taxis are wheelchair accessible – but only a tiny number of private hire vehicles e.g. Uber.
    • 4% of Inverness taxis are wheelchair accessible.
  • Taxi drivers will only be obliged not to discriminate and to assist wheelchair users who wish to transfer out of their wheelchair and stow it in the boot IF the taxi is fully wheelchair accessible. There will be no such obligation on drivers of inaccessible taxis.
  • There is no definition of what is a “wheelchair accessible taxi”. Licensing authorities have to make up their own. They may choose to list taxis that can accommodate the reference wheelchair – or they may not.
  • The Government intends on producing a UK-wide standardised notice of medical exemption from the obligations, for drivers to display in their cab. But the Government hasn’t got round to it yet. Nor has it said when it will. Evidently, 20 years / 6 years / 1 year’s notice wasn’t enough.
  • No body is tasked with enforcing S165. If and how each Local Authority enforces it is left entirely up to the Local Authority, so yet again, it’s a postcode lottery. S165 could be very much like the Conduct Regulations, which place bus drivers under a similar duty to put down the ramp for wheelchair users and other such access measures. No body is tasked with enforcing the Conduct Regulations, and no driver has ever faced enforcement for breaching them.

The commencement of S165 and S167 of the Equality Act was pretty much the only action the Government took in the face of the damning Select Committee report into the inadequacy of the Act. Their dilatory and rubbish actions emulate their refusal to introduce measures to oblige non-disabled people to shift when a disabled person needs the wheelchair space on the bus.

Andrew Jones MP, the Government minister with responsibility for transport accessibility,  said “This Government is committed to ensuring that transport works for everyone, including disabled people.” But I don’t think the Government’s actions show any such thing. I think the Government is attempting to obliterate disabled people, and is entirely sanguine about committing grave and systematic abuse of disabled people’s rights, so it doesn’t care two hoots about our public transport access needs.

(I don't guarantee that the above is error-free.)
Mar 212017

Computer Says NoI want to visit my Dad at the People’s History Museum next Monday, so I phoned Transpennine Express’ assisted travel line to book tickets, the wheelchair space and assistance with ramps.

The call lasted two hours.

There are no advance tickets available. This immediately rang alarm bells: it is theoretically possible that all advance purchase tickets have already sold, but usually this is a sign that seat reservations on the train haven’t opened.

Inability to book a seat is a pain for Temporarily Able-Bodied people. But at least they can fight for any of the 179 seats on the train; or (less attractively) stand. Wheelchair users can only travel in one of the two wheelchair spaces. If there are already two wheelchair users on board, we can’t travel.

Being bumped onto a later train would be a major problem, because we have to book assistance and ramps to get on and off the train 24 hours in advance. If we change our schedule there’s no guarantee the message will get through or that staff will be available to assist us.

I quote below some of the ocean of fail I unleashed by daring to attempt to book that train:

Advisor: Outbound journey: no reservable seats on either of them journeys, so it would be down to the train crew to find you seat. Me: Northern rail is non-reservable I know, but I am surprised at the Transpennine from Leeds to Manchester Victoria being non-reservable. TP Express usually is.  Advisor: Yes, it’s saying not able to reserve any seats on that one.

Me: Okay. Well I’m not happy to travel without booking the wheelchair space. Please find out what is up and ask somebody to sort it? I know the wheelchair space isn’t reservable on Northern Rail but they are on TP Express. Advisor: Yes. It’s not letting us book it at all. No availability. It’s just showing no availability on our system. If you still want me to put the booking through, that would be down to you if you got there and the seats weren’t available.

Me: I want to know please whether it is a technical problem or if it is that both wheelchair spaces are already booked by other wheelchair users. Advisor: No not a technical problem, just cannot book any seats from Leeds to Manchester Victoria at all on our system. Me: No seats either? Not just the wheelchair space? Advisor: No, no seats at all, nothing.

TransPenninge Booking site showing "reservations available".

Yet the Transpennine Express website states: “Reservations available“.

This makes me suspect that reservations are supposed to be available but aren’t available because of a fault.

Me: Please get on to whomever can find out why that train isn’t reservable, find out why it’s not reservable, get them to sort the problem so I can book the wheelchair space. Advisor: There is no way we can make the journey become available for booking when its showing no availability. … Nobody at Transpennine Express will be able to book you a seat on that particular journey because they all got the same system as me. Me: Why is it unreservable? Why have Transpennine made it unreservable? Advisor: It’s just a non reservable service on that train. We cannot reserve any seats on it at all. Me: I know. Why is it unreservable? Why have Transpennine made all the seats on that train unreservable? What’s the problem? Advisor: Some journeys are just like that cannot reserve seats on them. That’s just the way the booking system is. Me: That doesn’t answer. Why is that train unreservable? What is the problem? Advisor: There is no answer for that im afraid. It’s just that some services are unreservable.

I was thinking perhaps if there aren’t wheelchair users on it, and it’s just unreservable because of a cock-up, I could either persuade them to sort it out or chance it on the day.

The “discussion” went on for some time, until she passed me to her manager. I repeatedly asked him whether the wheelchair spaces are unavailable because they had already been booked by other people.  However the manager refused point-blank, for “data protection” reasons.

Me: She said the whole train is non-reservable; that’s clearly a problem your end because your own website says that seats are reservable. I want to know for definite whether it’s non-reservable due to some technical problem or because somebody your end has made the whole train non-reservable or if it is because the spaces are already gone. Manager: Okay, so all I will confirm at this point is that no availability on that train. Me: why is the train non-reservable? is it definitely the case that the wheelchair spaces are already reserved by wheelchair users? Manager: There is no availability for us to reserve any seats. Me: Why is the train non-reservable? Is it definitely the case that the wheelchair spaces are already reserved by wheelchair users? It’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask. Manager: I cannot give you travel details of other passengers on that train unfortunately. Me: You can find out though whether the wheelchair spaces will already be occupied. I don’t want travel details of other passengers on the train, I just want to be certain that this isn’t just due to some technical or booking failure that has made the whole train non-reservable when in fact the wheelchair spaces are not engaged. Manager: The spaces currently have no availability. We cannot share the details of other customers who have booked those spaces.

Me: At no point have I asked you to share the details of other passengers’ journeys. I just want you to tell me categorically that the wheelchair spaces are already occupied for the journey I would like to do. Manager: That would be passing on info in respect of other customers travel arrangements, therefore I cannot give it you. Me: No it wouldn’t, it would be simply telling me whether the spaces are reserved or not. If I phone up a cinema and try to book a wheelchair space, they tell me, the wheelchair space is free, or somebody has already reserved it, or they tell me there’s a tech problem that means they can’t reserve it or there’s some maintenance issue or something. Asking whether a wheelchair space is reserved or not is not asking for details of other customers travel arrangements. I just want to know whether the wheelchair space is showing as unavailable because the whole train has been made non-reservable or some other such problem, or if it is because they are occupied for part or all of the journey I want to do. That is not sharing anything about other passenger’s journeys.

He still refused. Manager: As I said earlier, I cannot confirm anything about other customers’ bookings or reservations, this will be a breach of their confidentiality. And later: Manager: I cannot give you info from other customers.

Other juicy bits:

Me: I would like to speak to your manager please. You can do that, what you mean is you will not, you are refusing. Manager: I will arrange for a call back from manager, which is normal process, however as this is Typetalk service I would be unable to arrange that with you.

Me: Your advisor earlier said that the whole service is non-reservable, that she is unable to book any seats at all, not just the wheelchair space. Manager: The rest of the train is really irrelevant because all we are talking about here is wheelchair space, unless you want to book a normal seat.  Me: If the whole train is unreservable then it’s clearly something that is up your end with the bookings. Is the whole train unreservable for some reason?

He never answered that either, though to be fair he did state categorically that there were no technical or organisational reasons why he would be unable to book the wheelchair spaces. Here’s the whole transcript with the exception of certain identifying details. (NB: I’ve cleaned the text relay output a lot but it’s still pretty hideous and inaccessible I’m afraid.)

Sometimes I think being disabled should come with a full-time secretary, solicitor and a baseball bat. (For relieving tensions on a baseball – I don’t do physical violence.)

I shall ask the Information Commissioner to assess this… unusual interpretation of approach to data protection.

I have little confidence that everything will go right on Monday. I am dreading it. I shall take careful note of the booking status of the spaces…

ADDENDUM the following day

This morning:

This afternoon:

They’ve booked the wheelchair space. So the space evidently wasn’t booked by a wheelchair user and there evidently was a technical or organisational reason why they didn’t book it.

It gives the wheelchair space reservation, but still says “no seats reserverd”… still not confidence-inspiring.

Twitter reactions

Buses Bill – Committee discussion about mandating priority for wheelchair users on buses

 Buses, Firstbus  Comments Off on Buses Bill – Committee discussion about mandating priority for wheelchair users on buses
Mar 162017

The Commons Buses Bill Committee today debated proposed amendments to the Buses Bill to ensure mandatory disability awareness training for bus drivers, and to enforce priority for disabled people to use the wheelchair space on buses.

The Houses of Parliament have a serious security problem with their Parliament TV website which means I can’t embed the video here:

However you can watch it direct on the Parliament Live TV website. The accessibility-related amendments were debated between about 12:07pm and 12:55pm. If you’re going to watch it, I recommend having the list of amendments handy.  “New Clauses3, 4 and 7 are the ones – marked “NC3, NC4” and “NC7” on the right of the amendments paper.

Parliament have not subtitled this video, but the record of the debate should be made available on Hansard and thus tomorrow – I’ll link it when it’s published.

My summary:

  • bus companies will have to do disability awareness training for their drivers come March next year
  • Andrew Jones MP has set up a small working group of people from bus companies and disabled people to look at the practicalities of implementing priority for disabled people in the wheelchair space, which will do its work over the summer
  • the two Labour MPs argued repeatedly, clearly and cogently for enforceable priority for disabled people for the wheelchair space, and for such to happen quickly.

The amendments were collectively withdrawn and/or voted down, on the basis that the changes asked for are either already in place or there are clear plans to make them happen, and because NC7 didn’t add anything to existing legislation.

We carry on fighting…

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