Countdown’s Rachel Riley just annihilated Virgin Trains over its treatment of a disabled passenger

Rachel Riley Virgin Trains Branson
Steve Topple

Countdown’s Rachel Riley is a bit of a mathematical genius. Did you know, though, that she’s also a rather skilled corporate giant slayer? Because on Sunday 25 February, she publicly exposed Virgin Trains’s treatment of a disabled passenger.

That’s Virgin Trains told, then

Riley was aboard a packed, football ‘match day’ Virgin service. After initially complaining on Twitter about the “disgusting” and “horrible” conditions on her train, she rounded on Richard Branson’s train company over the treatment of a disabled passenger:

Someone else said:

And after social media responded, Riley found the experience wasn’t a one off. And she may have set the cat amongst the pigeons with Virgin and its passengers:

Virgin Trains’s Twitter account then responded to Riley.

Is it just me or was it being slightly aloof…?

But Riley was having none of it:

The situation raises an important point, though: the accessibility, or lack thereof, for disabled people on our rail network.

A serious point

Campaign groups like the Association of British Commuters (ABC), Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), and Transport for All (TfA) have been fighting for rail accessibility. They say that it is harder for disabled people to travel than non-disabled people.

For example, TfA says, only one in five stations in the UK has step-free access. In London, around 25% of tube stations have step-free access, while this figure rises to 50% for the Overground.

Also, as The Canary has previously reported, disabled people have seen assistance at stations cut. So much so that one passenger had to drag himself on and off trains. In another example, the ABC believes that Southern Rail is in breach of the Equality Act 2010 regarding its scrapping of full disabled access at 33 stations.

So the campaigners have various demands of the government:

  • Let disabled and older people ‘turn-up-and-go’ like everyone else.
  • Ensure working audio-visual announcements are on every train and platform.
  • Allow mobility scooters on every train.
  • Stop staffing cuts and provide assistance at every train and station.
  • Guarantee fully accessible trains with working accessible facilities.
  • Uphold a clear standard for accessibility in the franchising process.

What century are we in?

The lack of accessibility on our rail network begs the question: what century are we in? And why, in 2018, are people having to fight for their most basic of rights? The answer to that is, sadly, a fairly simple one. Because we have a privatised national rail service, those operating the network are more concerned with profit than passengers. As Riley and her fellow passenger’s case shows, train companies’ profit drive often leaves disabled people stuck.

Get Involved!

– Support DPACTransport for All and the Mental Health Resistance Network.

Featured image via Channel 4/YouTube and FlowComm/Flickr

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