A disabled woman has said she was left in agony and feeling “humiliated” after she was refused access to a priority seat by fellow rail travellers.
Mum-of-three Ceri Wilding from Middleton Cheney was enjoying a day out with her family in the capital to celebrate the seventh birthday of her youngest daughter Florence and that of her husband Carl.
But the short return trip on the 9.06pm Chiltern Railways service from London Marylebone to Banbury quickly turned into a nightmare for the 36-year-old, who suffers constant pain and walks with the aid of crutches as a result of her failed back syndrome (FBS).
She said: “We just hopped on to the end of the train and moved towards the front. But there were people in all the disabled seats and they just turned away and wouldn’t look at me. There was a lady sitting in one with bags on the seat next to her who refused to move and no-one else would do anything.
“What worried me most was that even though I was with a struggle holding back my tears, my middle daughter wasn’t. She was having to stand in another area of the train crying, anxious about me.
Mrs Wilding, who retired from her job as a retired psychiatric nurse after she underwent surgery in 2010, said after she was turned down she felt too embarrassed to ask anyone else to move and stood in the rocking carriage for about 50 minutes.
She added: “I felt so sick due to the pain that my daughter was aware I might well be and actually said this as I was standing by the door. Again, people heard but did nothing.”
Mrs Wilding also criticised Chiltern Railways for failing to have staff on the train able to help her.
Chiltern Railways have confirmed the 9.06pm train was without a guard. They said: “. We have looked into this train and can confirm that it is one of our driver only trains. As we do not have a Train Manager on these trains, it is very much up to the good will of passengers to offer a seat to those who are less physically able if there are not any seats available. Signage around the priority seating asks that members of the public give up those seats if they are required so we are disappointed to hear that this did not happen on this occasion.”
They went on to say that assistance for passengers can be booked 24 hours in advance while station staff are also available to help vulnerable passengers.
But Mrs Wilding said her experience has put her off using public transport.
She added “There appears to be a real lack of support, compassion, understanding and accessibility for people who have acquired disabilities and who have children of a primary school age!. I feel I would be less “disabled” if people played by the rules and used their common sense!”