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DISABILITY campaigners and rail workers reacted with horror today after a private operator instructed staff not to help disabled passengers to board trains if doing so might cause a delay.
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has also told its staff that if a passenger becomes ill on a train — suffering a seizure, for example — the passenger must be removed from the train as soon as possible to avoid disrupting the timetable.
The operator of Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern services issued the order with its new timetable, which takes effect on Sunday.
Miriam Binder of direct action group Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac) accused GTR of discrimination, pointing out that it is the responsibility of the company to ensure that there are enough staff to help disabled passengers.
She also told the Star: “I deserve the right to travel to the destination of my choice, with the train journey I have selected, to arrive at the same time and in the same manner as all other passengers.
“I am not something but someone. To treat me as such is to effectively reduce me from being a self directed, autonomous individual to an object, much like a parcel, that GTR can redirect at will.
“This timetable is a kick in the teeth to all the equality legislation and should not be allowed to stand.”
The RMT union also condemned GTR’s instruction to staff, branding it “outrageous” and “shocking.”
General secretary Mick Cash added: “They now need to be stripped of the franchise to make way for an integrated, publicly owned operation that is properly equipped to deliver these services.”
Disability campaigner and Labour MP Marsha de Cordova tweeted: “This is SHOCKING! It’s grossly insulting to disabled people, who are being treated as second-class citizens.
“GTR, you MUST take accessibility seriously & you MUST abandon these instructions. This is just the latest evidence that we need publicly owned railways.”
Disability Rights UK deputy chief executive Sue Bott added: “Oh dear, we disabled people really are an inconvenience turning up to stations and expecting to get on a train. How unreasonable of us is that?
“Well not, actually. We have the same rights as any other passenger to be able to travel on trains and be treated with dignity.”
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