London Bridge just saw passengers vent their frustration at a notorious train company

Disabled people protesting at London Bridge
Steve Topple

There were chaotic scenes at London Bridge train station on Monday 21 May, as one of the most notorious train companies around was, yet again, under fire from passengers.

Wait, what…???

As The Canary previously reported, Govia Thameslink (which operates the controversial Southern Rail contract) introduced a new timetable on 20 May. It issued updated guidance to all its staff over the timetable’s implementation. Unfortunately for Govia, the somewhat staggering information within the booklet has been leaked; specifically the sections about disabled people.

One part says:

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DO NOT attempt to place PRM [persons of reduced mobility] on train if there is a possibility of delaying the service.

An image from Govias new booklet

Continue reading below...

Seemingly, disabled people can’t travel if they’re going to cause delays. How nice.

Another section implies that some disabled people will not be able to board a train unless staff at a disabled person’s departure station can contact the staff at their destination station. If this doesn’t happen, the disabled person will have to get a taxi:

A section from Govias new booklet

Southern Rail has maintained that disabled passengers can either book support at stations 24 hours in advance, or turn up without notice and expect support – but that, by booking in advance, the railway can give them additional assistance. This new guidance appears to nullify those claims.

Passenger groups, trade unions, and disabled people were furious at Govia’s new guidance. So they organised an emergency demonstration at 5pm on 21 May, outside the Shard, next to London Bridge Station.

No right to ride?

The action was organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and the Association of British Commuters (ABC), with support from the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT). Dozens of people rallied outside the station to show their anger at Govia’s new instructions to staff:

Dozens of people protested at London Bridge

Calling their protest #NoRightToRide, disabled people and members of the ABC and the RMT made their feelings clear:

People protesting at Govias instructions to staff about disabled people

The RMT’s Steve Hedley summed up the situation by saying that the chaos on the rail network for disabled people is so bad that “even the Evening Standard is reporting on it”:

The RMTs Steve Hedley speaking at the no right to ride demo

Speakers included Paula Peters and Keith Walker from DPAC, ABC co-founder Emily Yates, and members of the RMT. But it was one placard that perhaps summed up the situation the best:

A placard from the no right to ride demo

An “insult to disabled people”

Peters told The Canary:

To add further insult to disabled people, if they are taken ill on a train, Govia staff have been told to remove the passenger at the nearest station, whether it is staffed or not. This places the passenger’s safety at serious risk, when they may need urgent medical attention.

Calling us ‘persons of reduced mobility’ shows what Govia thinks of disabled people. We are not human to them. We are a hindrance. One to be treated as a parcel to be dumped at Govia’s will and convenience, to protect its speed, efficiency and professionalism. This is in blatant disregard of disabled people’s human rights, and it is blatant discrimination against disabled people. We will continue to highlight these appalling policies. But most importantly, we’ll continue the fight for step-free, fully accessible transport for everyone to use – a fight which should be everyone’s fight too.

Beggars belief

It beggars belief that, in 2018, disabled people are still having to fight with train operators like Govia for their most basic rights. But it is also encouraging to see organisations like DPAC, the ABC and the RMT working side by side to take on a corporate giant.

Get Involved!

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

Featured image via The Canary, and additional images via The Canary

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