Accessible travel will give me back my freedom

Kathy, 60, Ipswich

Kathy is from Ipswich. She tells us how inaccessible travel has taken away some of her independence. 

A totally step-free journey would make a big difference for a lot of disabled passengers. Having step-free access, for me, means freedom.

Kathy smiling

I would love to go and teach the transport staff, as the only way to see the obstacles is to have to do it themselves.

I suffer with anxiety and always worry if the rail assistance staff will be there to meet me at my stop. They don’t always show up. I even avoid taking many changes to reduce how many points of the journey I will be anxious about. Once, on the last leg of a trip, rail staff told me the train was cancelled. They told me to get on the underground or get a taxi instead. The taxi turned me away twice. Travelling shouldn’t be this stressful, especially when I plan my journeys in advance.

Inaccessible travel limits my opportunities

Inaccessible rail limits my employment options to local opportunities. I stick to whatever is in driving distance, as I wouldn’t be able to rely on train travel.

Occasionally I do a bit of consulting in London. I only do it if the person hiring me covers all my travel expenses, including taxis. Without that extra cover, it wouldn’t be worth it. Transport can be so much more expensive for disabled passengers than non-disabled passengers.

Step-free access would mean freedom

There are other barriers to travel too, such as with boarding the train carriages. Train doors that open outwards and ramps that are steep can be challenging. I board the train and sometimes must go up, in and take a quick left turn. That is quite frantic with an assistance dog too.

There are a lot of ways rail travel could be more made accessible. A totally step-free journey would make a big difference for a lot of disabled passengers. Having step-free access, for me, means freedom. It means I can board a train anywhere, anytime safely and arrive where I want and can get off without anxiety.

I have to rely on staff

Without step-free access, I have to be hopeful. I tell myself: the station guard who helped me board has told the destination station to have a ramp waiting. Repeating this calming mantra doesn’t actually take away the anxiety. 

I do not condone the removal of a guard from the train. I feel safer knowing there is someone on the train who can help. What if I end up in a carriage where the levelling ramp doesn’t deploy? I can’t describe the panic I feel when I get to my destination, and no one is there to meet me.

Having acquired my disability late in life, the way in which the world disables me is demeaning. I have become somewhat helpless due to the fact I can’t do those things I used to take for granted. Step-free access will go some way to restore my independence.

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.