Travelling Tips Series for those with a VI – Train travel

Hello all, my name is Andrew Rose and I’ve lost my sight due to a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. Please join me in the series of blogs that I've created with Henshaws where I share my experiences of independent travel to help those living with sight loss.

I came to Henshaws in 2010 and the team’s skills, expertise and understanding helped me to learn to live with sight loss when I needed it most. I am now repaying the debt of gratitude in spades as, very proudly, I am now a member of the Board of Trustees providing my own expertise in business and finance.

I have written a series of blogs on how I use public transport, see my previous blog post on using trams. The reason I have created these is to provide education to the wider public and hopefully a little entertainment. Most importantly though I have created them so that other members of the blind and visually impaired community might learn from my experiences…

On the trains

Every morning, Carol andrew-rail-2(my long suffering better half), drops me at the glass paned Birchwood Station. The glass panes, for the severely sight impaired are definitely a pain, we’ve all walked into them at some time. I avoid the erratic glass automatic doors and tap my hiking stick through the side, single door that is either open or not. I over-emphasise the tapping of my hiking stick to warn the uninitiated.

I make my way to the ticket kiosk. If there is no queue I wave my Disabled Rail Card (third off, or two for one if travelling with a partner). I always pay with cash – cards cause harrumphing queues quickly at busy periods. I state “A return to Manchester please.” I’ve been known on several occasions to make this request to an empty chair. Oh well!

Listening out for my train announcement (I can’t see the train’s destination) I tap my way further along the platform where the crowd thins, knowing that streams of school kids are about to flood the platform. The train comes from the right, always stops at the same point, and so I find my place where I end up standing to the right of the train doors. They open and the school kids alight, but because I’m stood to the right of the doors I’m not impacted and those coming from further down the platform have plenty of time to negotiate me. I’m still amazed that there are people who stand right in front of the doors causing unnecessary congestion.

Once the flood has ebbedandrew-rail-3 I am either gestured to go on to the train or more often I follow the lead of a fellow passenger. I generally stand between carriages as I get better radio reception, clearer announcements, in addition to saving me struggling to see empty seats.

Apart from counting the stops, knowing the approximate journey time, during the day I am able to see the skyline change as we approach Manchester – flat horizons turn to seemingly silhouetted, hi-rises. Arriving at Deansgate I follow the crowd, which identifies to me where the exit is (well 99% of the time). I am now upon the covered walkway to the tram.

Tips

  • Rail services are now far more accessible than they were in the past but there is travel assistance available on most train services if needed.
  • Staff will meet you and ensure you get to your train and if there are any changes they will assist you right through to your destination. All you need to do is ring ahead and the station provides you assistance on your selected route.
  • They recommend that you book help 24 hours before you travel. For more information about this service and the phone numbers to call go to: nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/disabled_passengers.aspx
  • If you’d like support on other types of transport, have a read of the rest of my travel series.
  • If you would like support or guidance on using public transport then get in touch with our Enablement Team on 0300 222 5555.
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Andrew
Andrew Rose has been with Henshaws since 2010 after losing his sight to Retinitis Pigmentosa. He is a member of the Board of Trustees, providing his expertise in business, finance and visual impairment.
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