Accessible rail allows me to work, earn and spend

Emma, 24, Birmingham

Emma is 24 and from Birmingham. She shares her frustrations around inaccessible trains and what she'd like to see changed.

Like many people, as restrictions ease, I want to travel, see places and access a fulfilling career. But without accessible rail, none of those things will be straight forward for me.


I’ve moved into my own flat in Birmingham, and I’m now looking for work. Most positions mean I would eventually have to get a train out of the city centre. Unfortunately, rail travel poses problems for me.

There isn’t an easy way to find out which stations I can use. While a lot in Birmingham is accessible, I know that isn’t the case elsewhere. For example, the station back where my parents live is only accessible on one side.

Emma smiling

My life would be easier if trains were accessible

Even when a station is accessible, rail staff have let me down. One time London Underground staff did not understand the accessibility at their station. Their confusion meant I ended up being late for a job interview in London.

It was so frustrating because I had prepared and had put in the work to get the interview. It would be much easier for me to work, and easier for me to get work if transport was accessible.

Having to jump through hoops

For a successful journey, there are so many hoops I go through before I get on the train. I research my route and pay for a ticket in advance to get accessible seating and a ramp. I have to be there half an hour before my trains, and if I’ve been late, staff have yelled at me.

On the train, people often put their luggage in the space for a wheelchair. I either wait for them to move it or have no space or have luggage put around me. Once a man actually put his luggage on me.

When the journey ends, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get off when I need to. I need a ramp and am often left waiting for someone to come with one. If I’m stuck on a train people will offer to help. I’ve found that passengers are often more helpful than station staff.

The system isn't working

The system doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, so I plan in contingency time because I expect things to go wrong. It can be stressful, and this creates anxiety around train travel. I never know what issues I’m going to face.

I have my rights as a disabled person saved on my phone, so I can stand up for myself when I travel. I’m happy to shout up if I’m mistreated, and then, because I’ve been assertive, people tend to be quite apologetic.

Missing out on the purple pound

When I hear how much money it would cost to make stations accessible, it’s frustrating. To the government that’s a tiny amount, but it could make such an impact on disabled people’s lives. The government should make the investment and reap the benefits of the purple pound. It would boost our spending and earning power.

Get on Board: Making the economic case for “levelling up” inclusive transport

We’re calling for a new law that guarantees all rail journeys in Britain will be fully accessible by 2030. This must include an implementation plan with sufficient funding to ensure genuine progress is made.

Read about our research and the change we want to see in our policy report.