Disabled passenger Ann Nicholson told to get taxi at Herne Bay station
John Nicholson is
campaigning for better disabled access at Herne Bay station
by Chris Price
A disabled grandmother was told to "get a cab to
Whitstable" when she found she could not change platforms at Herne
Ann Nicholson, 74, was given the advice from Southeastern
customer services when she complained about the lack of
Her son John has demanded the company apologise and is
calling for services to be improved for passengers with mobility
The only way across the platforms is through an underpass,
accessed by stairs - which Mrs Nicholson, who is registered
disabled and suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, could not
Southeastern said resolving the issue is not under its
remit and should be addressed by Network Rail, which owns the
"If they treat all disabled passengers in this casual manner, it speaks volumes for their understanding of people in the real world..." – John Nicholson
Network Rail has since pointed out that responsibility for the
line rests with Southeastern.
Mr Nicholson, co-founder of the Alliance of Kent Commuters,
said: "I was quite simply astonished when Southeastern said 'get a
cab to Whitstable station.'
"I consider it an insult to an elderly woman trying her best to
"This may seem a storm in a teacup, but if they treat all
disabled passengers in this casual manner, it speaks volumes for
their understanding of people in the real world.
"I know it costs money to install disabled access at stations,
but we are now in the 21st century and I find it staggering that
with all these above inflation fare increases the people of Kent
have had to suffer, there are still stations without adequate and
safe disabled access.
"They cannot simply wash their hands and blame Network Rail.
"We pay Southeastern for our ticket, they take our money so,
they can communicate with Network Rail about getting this
improvement made to Herne Bay station.
"We do not pay Network Rail directly, so why should we deal with
them? As far as I am concerned, it is the responsibility of
Southeastern to arrange for this improvement. How they get it
arranged, or who they deal with, is up to them."
Ann Nicholson could not
change platforms at Herne Bay station
Mr Nicholson, of School Lane, Herne, proposes giving access to
an alley that links both platforms via a lift or a ramp.
"I am sure there is something they could do at minimal cost.
"We have been paying 3% above inflation for God knows how long
and that was allowed for improvements. When are we going to see
"The journey time to London is 20 minutes longer – that is not
an improvement so let's have disabled access for Herne Bay station
Mr Nicholson argued it is essential because otherwise disabled
commuters are forced to travel past Herne Bay station, just so they
can swap sides at a station which has full disabled access.
Between Faversham and Ramsgate, only Margate has got disabled
access on both sides.
Herne Bay is flagged up on National Rail's UK map as a "station
with limited or no step free access to platforms".
Southeastern said it offers an "assisted travel service" to
meet their obligations under the Equalities Act.
Alison Nolan said: "Through our assisted travel service we arrange
for our staff to be available at any station where assistance is
"The type of assistance that can be provided is ramps to assist
passengers to get on or off trains, a member of staff providing a
helping hand with stairs, or a taxi to convey disabled passengers
from an inaccessible station to one which is accessible to
"If a taxi is needed, then we will pay for and arrange this
transport for our customers. We just ask for 24 hours notice to
arrange this assistance. If a customer is unable to give notice,
then of course we will still do everything we can to provide
assistance, but the level of service we offer may be affected by
the availability of staff or accessible taxis.
"We're sorry that it seems this advice was misunderstood by Mrs
Nicholson. We are yet to receive a complaint about this matter, but
would be happy to follow it up if Mrs Nicholson would like to get
in touch with us to discuss her concerns. Rest assured our
employees are all well trained and aware of the procedures under
the assisted travel service."
She added: "Responsibility for creating step free access rests
with the infrastructure owner – Network Rail (which owns all
stations on the UK rail network) with funding from the Department
for Transport – not the train operator."
Under its Access for All programme, the Department for
Transport makes funds available for step-free access including
the installation of lifts.
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