Paralympian Sophie Christiansen slams train company over disability ramp


Grace Witherden

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Gold medallist Sophie Christiansen has hit out at Great Western Railway after a disability ramp was not provided for her at Paddington Station.

The Paralympian, who lives in Maidenhead, is calling on train companies to make public transport easier for people living with disabilities.

Sophie, who works at investment bank Goldman Sachs, was travelling on the 12.02pm from Maidenhead to Paddington on Monday and did not book assistance ahead as it was a spontaneous trip.

When she arrived at the London station, there was no ramp and her carer had to help her get off the train.

She said: “This is something that needs to be spoken about because it really is a pain in my life.

“I work in London and it’s just the lack of communication with the booking assistant.

“It should be better for travel assistance; there shouldn’t be any booking involved.

“Sometimes I don’t have time to book assistance ahead of my journey and I often don’t know when I’m finishing work and what train I am going to catch.”

The equestrian star, who recently returned from the Rio Paralympic Games with three gold medals, was born with multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair.

She said “I just don’t understand why there is not an app where people could book assistance easily.

“It would also benefit people with shopping and mothers with prams.

“Luckily I was travelling with my carer but if I was on my own I would have been stuck. More disabled people would use public transport if it was more reliable.”

This is not the first time the former Charters School pupil has spoken out against public transport.

In 2012, Sophie backed a campaign, A2B For All, alongside fellow Paralympian Tanni Gray-Thompson which aimed to ensure public transport did not discriminate against those with disabilities.

She has since been calling out rail companies and train stations on social media to document her struggle.

A spokesman from Great Western Railway said: “No customer should have to wait a significant period of time for assistance, whether booked in advance or not, and we are sorry we didn’t get it right on this occasion.

“We have investigated Ms Christiansen’s complaint with our partners Network Rail, who run Paddington Station, and will be working with them to reduce the likelihood of something going wrong again.”


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  • Tulyar

    21:09, 06 October 2016

    Worth remembering that Paddington us operated by Network Rail, who provide the staff for the blue mobility assistance trucks. It is generally also NR who attend the incoming and outgoing trains, so perhaps a bit hard to target GWR alone. Twitter and other direct and effective communication systems make real time action much easier to deliver, and some operators embrace this well. Simply telling the Train Manager can get this sorted as we did on the 18.40 train to London on Monday which finally left at 21.43 (5 hours 3 minutes late, and losing more time en route) alternative transport was booked, the original train was cancelled and became the 20.10 to Crewe, which in turn was extended as a special 'scratch' service from Crewe to London. all en route real time. If this can be done, getting a person with a ramp at a train when it arrives at a station is small beer. Reflecting on this, twitter is proving a rapid way to highlight dangerous and bad driving, and I'll typically see 2-3 tweets per day with a picture of a driver on the phone. Some user can live stream video too and it may be handy to call on anyone nearby to get along to record the exact detail of an event with a suitable hashtag.



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