10:30am Friday 5th September 2008
By Allan Tunningley Â»
A DISABLED pensioner was advised to take two extra train journeys just to cross to the other side of the railway track at a South Lakeland station.
Eighty two-year-old Violet Stokes, who uses a wheelchair, was “trapped\ on the platform at Arnside Station after enjoying a day trip up the west coast with her son and daughter-in-law.
After getting off the Northern Rail train at the station, Allan Stokes discovered a gate people used to access to the platform earlier in the day had been padlocked with two locks and a chain.
Mr Stokes, a retired policeman from Beetham, said there was no other way to get his mother off the station in a wheelchair and when he used a telephone on the platform to call a rail helpline, he was advised she should be taken on the next train to Silverdale where she could cross the track and take another train back to the other platform at Arnside, from where she could exit.
“I couldn’t believe what was being suggested,\”? said Mr Stokes. \”I explained to the person that this was a ridiculous situation as that would involve over two hours of travelling to get just 20 feet across the line.\”?
Mr Stokes said his mother, who was on holiday from Ormskirk, was left upset by the experience, which happened on August 22, and was also in discomfort because there were no toilet facilities for her to use.
\”The gate was definitely locked,\”? he said. \”I tried to remove the chain but couldn\”™t The situation is unacceptable because there aren\”™t any notices to say there is no disabled access at this station.
\”Eventually, we managed to slowly get her across the footbridge and carry her chair. I am left speechless that this can happen in this day and age, when we treat such disabled elderly in such a way.
\”Our lovely day out was completely ruined and my mother, who has severe arthritis and a heart complaint, was left upset and distressed.\”?
A spokesman for Network Rail said there was \”long-running problem\”? with access to the platform from the old station yard, which was now in private ownership, but he insisted there was a right of way for rail workers and passengers and the gate should never be locked.
He added: \”Network Rail\”™s legal services team will now look at this to see if the situation can be resolved.\”?
The owner of the former station yard, Harry Howard, said: \”This is a very difficult and sensitive subject.\”?
He denied the gate was ever locked but said it would have been chained up to make it look as though it was locked to discourage thieves and vandals from entering the former station yard.
He disputed Network Rail\”™s claim that passengers had a right of way over the land.
\”This has been going on for a long time. I accept railway staff have a right to use the access but Network Rail should provide another way for passengers with wheelchairs to cross the track like they do at other stations.
\”There are health and safety issues with passengers crossing the yard because there are businesses being run there. And I don\”™t think it is very safe for people in wheelchairs to cross the track by having to go along Sandside Road and under the railway bridge where there is no footpath.\”?