In July I attempted to catch the Caledonian Sleeper to Aberdeen. I failed because they hadn’t stowed the upper bunk in the accessible cabin, despite multiple attempts to do so.
In the middle of a discussion with the guard as to what to do (as a disabled person suddenly without accommodation hundreds of miles from home) I was interrupted by Euston Assistance staff member “Paul”. He repeatedly barracked me, in front of another passenger, for failing to meet him at the station mobility assistance meeting point. (I had specified to meet me at the lounge, which I visited for the shower.)
I later complained about his attitude. Network Rail stated that all assistance users must meet at the assistance reception. I found that not credible given that Network Rail offer assistance entering the station – how can somebody get that assistance if they have to register at the assistance point in the station?
Network Rail then accused me of being abusive to the staff member.
I was astonished at this ad-hominem and unjustified attack. I have never been abusive to assistance staff, and I found the allegation abhorrent.
In the course of ensuing conversations, Network Rail accidentally released internal correspondence showing that it was Euston station manager Joe Hendry who had made the allegation:
their recollection was that they were approached by Mr Paulley who was very abusive to the member of staff. … He was told that we weren’t informed and then told our member od staff to go away …
We successful assist approximately 100k customers a year without incident and will not accept abusive behaviour from passengers and after this incident we have reviewed our processes and feel that we need to introduce the option of our staff to have access to body worn cameras to avoid situations like this or indeed just to get a record of what happened form their side.
(Typos in the original)
Joe Hendry, Station Manager, made the above allegations based solely on the account of the staff member involved, against my account and without seeking any third party evidence from e.g. the train manager whose conversation he interrupted.
I threatened libel action. Happily, I had the whole interaction recorded.
> Sleeper Manager: The managers up in Inverness. They say there’s two things they can do. They can can get you booked on the service another day and get you a taxi home.
> Mr Paulley: Taxi home to Wetherby, North Yorkshire?
> Sleeper Manager: Is that’s home for you?
> Mr Paulley: Yeah I came down from Wetherby specifically to do this tonight.
> Sleeper Manager: Oh OK.
> Paul: Mr Paulley?
> Mr Paulley: Yes?
> Paul: I’ve been waiting for.. (unclear)
> Mr Paulley: Yeah, I was up in the First Class Lounge. I was in the First Class Lounge.
> Paul: Yeah that’s OK, but I didn’t know where you are. (unclear)
> Mr Paulley: Yeah, I did tell them that I had booked assistance.
> Paul: (unclear)
> Mr Paulley: I told them that I was, when I phoned up to book assistance, I said “meet me at the first class lounge”.
> Paul: (unclear)
> Mr Paulley: Well that’s not my fault, is it?
> Paul: (unclear)
> Mr Paulley: Yeah. I was where I said I would be when I booked assistance, which was the first class lounge. Now please leave me alone.
> Sleeper Manager: Or we can get you booked…
I don’t see how that can be characterised as “abusive”. Neither could Network Rail’s route manager, who eventually responded:
If this video is an accurate gauge of the tone of all the interactions you had with our staff at Euston on that day,then I do not think it shows evidence of “unprofessional behaviour” by our staff member. I equally do not think it shows evidence of you being “abusive.”
As a result having reviewed the available evidence, I would like to retract and apologise for, the use of the word “abusive” from the earlier response to you by Simon Evans. This descriptor is not supported by the evidence I have seen.
So much for staff needing body-worn cameras to protect them against malicious allegations made by members of the public. I shall continue to record such interactions to protect MYSELF from malicious allegations, particularly when senior station staff such as Mr Hendry swallow and relay staff accusations against contrary accounts and without seeking third party evidence.
Meanwhile the ICO responded on the use of body worn cameras, saying there would need to be a “clear and pressing social need” for such to be justified; and Network Rail’s Data Protection Officer stated there’s no current proposal to introduce such. And rail regulator Office of Rail and Road has considered my
point about Network Rail requesting that passengers report to the assistance reception desk at Euston station when they have booked, or require to book assistance, even though their current DPPP states their assistance is available to help passengers entering any of their managed stations. … As part of the policy approval process we will ensure this details exactly what assistance is available at Euston station and how to get it, thus eliminating the inconsistency in the information you have identified.
I caught the Sleeper again on Monday. I booked assistance to meet me at the shower lounge, which didn’t happen. I therefore went to the registration point, where staff were not expecting me, despite my booking. Staff asked me to wait 20 minutes, which I did whilst 5+ staff hung around and chatted amongst themselves, to the exclusion of passengers waiting for assistance. They eventually asked me to make my own way to the platform, where station staff would assist me onto the train. Station staff didn’t turn up, so the train staff helped me on.
I think the learning points of this are:
- Maybe don’t bother booking assistance for the Sleeper at Euston, they are so dilatory it may be easier simply to ignore them and rely on train staff. Booking simply resulted in extra stress, being shouted at and libeled in my case, to no benefit.
- Take a camera, record and keep all the things, because some staff evidently make up allegations against passengers and managers unquestioningly accept station staff’s allegations without seeking corroboration.
All extra stress only experienced by disabled people with assistance needs…