Disabled woman relives ‘horrible’ experience on station platform

The 56-year-old failed to make the next train home to West Worthing. Picture: Derek Martin
The 56-year-old failed to make the next train home to West Worthing. Picture: Derek Martin

A disabled woman who was left stranded on a station platform last month because there was no one to help her onto a train found herself in the same ‘horrible’ situation again.

Sandra Nighy, of Fairfields, Tarring, regularly books assistance on Southern trains, however on Friday, January 20, she found herself almost being left behind again for the third time in a month.

The 56-year-old had been at bible study and was making the same journey from Hampden Park to West Worthing after 10pm, a journey she does twice a week.

She said: “The driver got off again and explained that there was no on board supervisor to help me. My reaction was ‘not again’ and he realised it was me and he didn’t want to leave me. It was horrible and embarrassing.”

“The signalman suggested the driver used the help point button on the platform but he was only told that there should be someone on the train to help me – but there of course wasn’t.”

Fortunately for Sandra, concerned passengers suggested they put the ramp down for her – instead of the driver who was not legally allowed.

“I instructed the driver to get the key to the ramp and then told the passengers how to put it down. I didn’t want to get the driver in trouble but passengers should not have to do this,” she said.

Mrs Nighy managed to get back to Brighton, but failed to make the train home to West Worthing on time and had to get a taxi instead – which was paid for by rail staff.

“A station manager helped me off the train and questioned how I got on the train in the first place – this was really uncomfortable as I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble,” she added.

Sandra was left to wait in the ‘freezing cold’ at Hampden Park railway station on January 6 due to no OBS being on board and was forced to wait in the dark for a taxi, but this didn’t arrive for two hours because the taxi firm said there was no available taxi with wheelchair access.

She thought she had overcome the worst but found herself in the same situation the following day at the railway station, when she was told she could not get on the train again as there would be no OBS to help her at Brighton.

This third time became enough as she decided to not make the journey the following Friday on January 27.

She said: “I want to keep going as it is really important to me, I have been going for more than a year and it was always fine until now.
“I need to know that if I have booked assistance someone is going to be able to help me – I need this confidence back.”

Sandra received a phone call a few days later from Southern Rail who apologised and told her the OBS ‘went sick at last minute’.

She added: “They also phoned me three times on Tuesday that week to tell me there would be no assistance the following day, as I travel to Tunbridge Wells every other Wednesday.

“This was nice that they looked into and told me, but it was a bit over the top and especially that it all went wrong two days later.”

Mrs Nighy previously raised the importance of having someone on the train.

She said: “If someone is taken ill, or is violent, the driver wouldn’t know and this is quite scary.”

A Southern Rail spokesman said: “We are incredibly sorry to have inconvenienced Mrs Nighy again.

“We carried out an urgent investigation into what went wrong and established that the OBS scheduled to work that train went sick at short notice. At our control centre, we always have an assisted travel coordinator on duty, and this person will always know if an OBS is taken ill or misses a connection, so can alert other staff when a situation such as this arises.

“However, due to human error, the message was never communicated to the assisted travel coordinator so they were unable to contact Mrs Nighy and agree with her the best way to get her home.

“We are redoubling our efforts and re-briefing all our teams on the importance of following the correct procedures we have put in place to try and ensure incidents like this don’t happen, and those needing help can travel with confidence.

“We are also recruiting 100 additional OBS’s to give us even greater flexibility, and we believe that as a result of this, these circumstances would be less likely to occur.”

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