Tuesday, 4 February 2014

"Most Welcoming Station"

On the wall near the assisted travel helpdesk at Paddington station is a poster saying that they intend to be (amongst other things) the most welcoming station.

They weren't doing badly. I mean, the staff looked up and greeted me, and checked what train I was catching etc in a friendly, professional, and yes, welcoming manner. But it stopped short of being the most welcoming.

Because, in my books, that title is currently held by Didcot Parkway.

Yes, there is a stupidly long detour needed to get step free access to platform One. (looking on google, I reckon it's nearly 0.5km longer than the stairs!) and is not an easy route to push. It's a route I need assistance for.

And the current improvement works mean that being dropped off near the ticket office is a nightmare.

So how come it is still welcoming?

Here's how: It was windy and cold and rainy and generally 'stay inside' weather. But 4 staff had a fight over who got to take me the long, outdoors route to platform One.

(OK. slight exaggeration, they didn't actually fight.)
Then once they'd decided on 2 winners, one pushed me, the other fetched an umbrella and we braved the storm. 'Brolly position meant the chap pushing couldn't see where he was going so we travelled to a soundtrack of "left a bit, right a bit, dropped kerb coming up".

Once on the platform, they stayed (with the umbrella incase the heavens opened once more) and we chatted until they put me on the train.

Usually the unobtrusive help is best - and what I usually get at Didcot. But sometimes, when the help involves people going out in hideous weather, having staff fight over who gets to take you rather than who gets to stay inside, and then go the second mile in ensuring that you are as comfortable (and dry) as possible, is, quite simply, the most welcoming thing I could have asked for. It made me feel special - not as a person with disabilities, but as a valued customer.

And they are interested in my views on access and assistance etc. In a 'talking about stuff so we can do better' way.

And not only that, but a few weeks ago I got told off for running in the subway at Didcot. Which is awesome. Why?...well, I might have been going a little fast. It is down-hill and on the smoothest, most marvelous-for-wheeling floor. Most places no-one says anything because I'm in a wheelchair. Eyebrows might be raised, but no-one says a word. Perhaps they think I'll be offended. But no, the good natured yell reminded me that I might be on wheels, but I am also just one of the crowd of commuters who occasionally hurry a little more than is appropriate.

So Paddington, although I applaud your efforts, Didcot still holds first place.


  1. I seem to be using the Rugby and Euston assistance very often now and both have also been very good. Even to the point of understanding hospital appointment systems and getting me on a later train if delayed. things seem to be improving which is brilliant

  2. That's fantastic to hear and completely opposite to my experience. I travel through Didcot regularly and although I have no mobility issues, my father does, so I'm aware of some of the problems. An employee snottily informed me that the drop-off point outside was for taxis and busses only, and if any people with disabilities show up, they have to phone from the car park across the road for help. I was somewhat horrified, as my father's condition means not just mobility issues but exhaustion issues too, and contacted the station manager to ask if it was true that anyone with disabilities had to take at least another ten minutes and travel that much further than someone who happened to show up in a taxi. The employee I spoke to was very officious and rigid, so I'm glad to hear that when push came to shove, you didn't have any problems!! (Hope my dad is as lucky.)


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