‘Disabled? You’ll have to go to Watford and get a taxi from there’

Library picture.
Library picture.

A train user has described the moment a mother and her disabled daughter were sent back to Watford on the train to get a taxi over to Hemel Hempstead because no one was trained to use the station’s stair lift as ‘disgusting’.

Cinema worker Chris Morrison was going to visit his girlfriend in London when he saw the distressing incident unfold.

“It was disgusting really,” he said. “There was a security guard and another lady that worked there and they basically sent her all the way back to Watford to use the lift there because they weren’t trained to use the stair lift.

“I got on the train with them because I was going into London. The mum was crying.

“It was disgusting, at one point they even turned around to the lady and said stop making a fuss. That is not only bad customer service but also plain horrible.”

The 28 year old, of Warners End, said the mother told him they had travelled to Hemel Hempstead for a hospital appointment.

London Midland spokesman Becky Glover said: “We’d like to express our sincere apologises and recognise the frustration and inconvenience caused.”

She said the taxi from Watford to Hemel Hempstead would be paid for by the train operator and that a project to install lifts is currently under way, which will eliminate the long-running problem.

“A programme of major improvement work is currently under way at Hemel Hempstead station which will make the station completely step free, removing any future access difficulties for passengers with restricted mobility,” she said.

“Hoardings are currently in place while the works are being carried out which have significantly reduced the platform width. This prevents us from using portable ramps to assist passengers in wheelchairs. In the interim period, London Midland is providing taxis to accessible stations to allow passengers to complete their journey.”

The £3 million project is due to be completed this summer and is funded by the government’s Stations For All scheme.

Berkhamsted is undergoing similar works with three new lift shafts being installed but there are no plans for Tring and Kings Langley yet.

Becky said: “Stations with higher footfall counts are prioritised when it comes to such improvements.”

London Midland has pledged to pay taxi fares for all train users with restricted mobility while the works are in progress.

Access campaigner and mobility scooter user Patrick Burke, who has MS, welcomed the works. “We are dreadfully behind,” he said. “If you go to Holland every station has a lift. Germany is also good. It is an integral part of the design of the building.

“You are not just helping the disabled person, you are helping people with buggies or someone coming home from work with very heavy luggage. It goes across the board.”