Assisted Train Travel

Helping a person in a wheelchair up a ramp into a train

Did you know that you can get Assisted Travel on Railways across England?

Perhaps there have been occasions where you wanted to visit a relative or friend who lives far away or simply travel to a destination by train, but you thought it would be extremely difficult or cause stress because of your disability or frailty. Maybe you’ve been put off going on your trip (and maybe tried to think of a so-called excuse that isn’t disability related – “My fish will definitely miss me whilst I’m away, and I simply cannot leave them in the hands of the Germy Grandchildren…right that’s settled, Devon is off the cards!”, or you’ve been stressed out about thinking whether it would be cheeky or not to ask someone you know to help out.

Most of the time family and friends are happy to take you, or take some time off work to assist you onto the train and it isn’t as much of an inconvenience as you think for them. However, the ‘asking process’ probably still leaves you somewhat stressed, feeling guilty and less independent, or perhaps you just don’t have the nearby convenience of asking people close to you to help.

Well, fret no more because many rail companies do actually offer a free service to people with disabilities and the elderly, to help them on their rail journey.

This article aims to make you aware that such services are available. There will be differences between rail companies, so it would be a good idea to find out which company operates the train line you want to use and then ask what support they have in place. However in this article I shall outline some of the processes and services regarding assisted rail travel from a few companies that are popular in our area.

East Midlands Trains

A paragraph from East Midlands Operations Strategy: “We are committed to meeting the travelling needs of our customers with disabilities that require assistance. We recognise the challenges faced by disabled customers and that these may require us to adjust the way we provide our service. Where practicable, we will provide equipment at our stations to enable staff to make these reasonable adjustments to ensure excellent service for our customers with disabilities.”

The train company can provide assistance to help plan your journey, including information about all train services around the UK, including:

  • Information about onward modes of transport.
  • The most appropriate tickets for your journey, including any relevant discounts.
  • Help to book the most appropriate seats on the trains.
  • Bookings for help to get on and off trains (including the use of station wheelchairs and ramps).
  • Assistance with your luggage.
  • Arrangements to help transfer between different train services.

The above is what most other rail companies also mean when they say ‘assisted travel’.

It’s strongly advisable to book at least a few days in advance so that the team can accommodate your needs and make sure that all equipment is ready.
To book rail assistance with East Midlands trains call their free phone line – 08000 113 323 or alternatively you can go onto their website and complete a booking form.

Transport for London

Transport for London operates a little differently to East Midlands. The text below is from their website and it says you do not need to pre-book assistance, except for the overground service:

“On the Tube, TfL Rail and Overground, station staff will also accompany you to the train and help you on board and, if needed, can arrange for you to be met at your destination. Anyone can use this service, but it is particularly used by blind and visually impaired passengers and people using boarding ramps onto trains.
If you would like to use this service, ask a member of staff when you arrive at the station.”

To book assistance for the London overground railway you can phone 0343 222 1234

First Great Western

The franchise covers a large geographical area, including:

  • High Speed services from London Paddington to South Wales and Cornwall
  • Suburban services from London Paddington to Reading and Newbury, services via Oxford and the Cotswolds to Hereford and Worcester and over the North Downs between Reading and Gatwick airport
  • Regional services throughout the South West and in South Wales

First Great Western train services can carry manual or powered wheelchairs up to the following dimension and weight limitations:

  • Width 700 mm (650 mm on Coach G First Class HST)*
  • Length (including footplates) 1200 mm
  • Weight (including passenger) 300 kilograms

They also promise to refund the cost of the full journey if they fail to provide assistance that was pre-booked.

Older and disabled passengers can book assisted travel by either:

To conclude, most railway stations and companies shall provide travel assistance for the disabled and elderly. This information can be found by visiting their website beforehand and phoning them. If you do not have internet access or have difficulty using it then we at The Disability Resource Centre are happy to provide you with the information you need and direct you to the companies’ assisted travel phone line where you can speak to a staff member about the assistance they would be able to provide to you.

Also, please be aware that some trains require a scooter permit if you need to bring an electric scooter on board. Contact the train line to see if this is necessary. There isn’t a national permit for all train lines and so they often have their own application forms.

Happy travels from all at The Disability Resource Centre.