The Anonymous Widower

Disability Issues At Novara Station

Novara is a town about the size of Ipswich and the station is well-provided with equipment and signs to help those with various issues.

  1. Note.
  • Braille maps are everywhere and most handrails seemed to be marked.
  • Each platform had a lift.
  • The wheelchair lift is a common sight in Europe to overcome the bad design of trains, which don’t have level access.

Most stations I visited, were similarly equipped.

 

May 29, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Blankenberg Station

The Coast Tram connects to the Belgian Railway network at Knokke, Blankenberge, Oostende and De Panne.

These pictures show Blankenberge station and tram interchange.

Blankenberge station and the tram stop are undergoing a degree of rebuilding and landscaping.

Note.

  • The trams are metre gauge.
  • They were a bit thin on the ground, as there was a strike.
  • Many of the trams were covered in advertising, which made it difficult to see out.

I had taken a train from Bruges to Blankenberge.

May 16, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Could Improved Public Transport Cut Crime?

London is going through a murder epidemic at the moment, mainly with knives and a couple of guns.

I’m not worried about it, as why would anybody bother a seventy-year-old man, who doesn’t have the best dress sense?

But I wasn’t always old and I can remember the 1950s and 1960s, where things weren’t as idyllic, as those who voted Brexit like to think.

A friend of mine was a policeman in the East End in those days and he has some interesting tales.

Return To Dalston

I moved to Dalston in 2010, after the deaths of my wife and our thirty-seven year-old son from cancer, and a serious stroke, which left me with damaged eyesight and unable to drive.

You might ask, why I moved from deepest Suffolk to a slightly run-down area of London? Free public transport was a big draw!

A hundred and thirty years ago, all my grandparents and lots of relatives lived in this area.

My paternal grandmother would shop in the Marks and Spencer and the Woollies at the Angel, as I still do, although the Woollies is now a Waitrose.

This part-Jewish, part-Huguenot, part-Devonian, very stubborn London mongrel has come home!

An Observation

When I moved here, if I walked down Kingsland High Street, at times, the pavements were crowded with youths with nothing better to do. I wasn’t actually threatened, but I would avoid the area.

Now, the street is probably more crowded, but everybody is going about their business or pleasure in a calm manner.

I can only speculate about why the atmosphere has changed, but there has been two major developments.

  • The Overground has arrived to replace the travelling urinals of the North London Line and provide new services to the City and South London.
  • Most of the bus routes now have new buses.

Local people even got excited, that Hackney and Dalston got the first of the New Routemasters on route 38.

Have those young people from Dalston, now found better things by using public transport, such as work or a pleasureable leisure activity?

Research needs to be done, but there’s nothing on the Internet.

The Rise Of Dalston

I truly believe that the rise of Dalston has been created by the better public transport.

Who would have wanted to live in the new flats or the old Victorian houses, if you couldn’t get to work?

We’re now in an upward spiral, as property is improved, businesses are created and restaurants and cafes open.

The Next Experiment

Several major rail projects are underway in North and North East London.

It will be very informative, to see whether crime is lower or higher in a couple of years.

 

Conclusion

Improving public transport is one of these measures, that benefits a wide range of people; the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed and families with children.

It may also encourage those, who might drift into gangs and crime, to do something more worthwhile.

Lots of other places in the UK are getting or need the same treatment as Dalston has received.

  • The West London Orbital Railway could invigorate North West London.
  • Kirkby to Skelmersdale, would connect the latter town to Liverpool.
  • Newcastle is planning to reopen the railways to Ashington and Blyth.
  • Birmingham is expanding passenger railways on reopened and freight lines.

The future could be fascinating.

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Courtesy On London Buses

Today, a 30 bus was at the stop that takes me on my way in the morning. Especially, if like today, I was tryibg to get to the Angel  I say trying, as Thanes Water are having a big construction party as they try to sort out the water mains on Upper Street. Normally, I have three routes that I can take. But due to the works, only the 30 is a sensible option, as the others go  via Silicon Roundabout.

Courtesy 1 – The driver was about to leave as I approached, but he saw me coming and waited.

Courtesy 2 – The bus was pretty full with the only one empty seat for persons of restricted mobility. So I had one of those non-arguments with a pregnant lady about who would not have the seat. On seeing a vacant seat towards the back of the bus, I walked past and she eventually sat down. You see these after you situations a lot. The funniest, I saw was when an elderly Orthodox Jew and a black lady about twenty, delayed a bus whilst they decided who got on first. So charming!

Courtesy 3 – The seat I went for had a lady’s bag on it, but she quickly removed it, when she saw I was coming for the seat.

Courtesy 4 – At Highbury Grove a guy pushing a lady in a wheelchair needed to get on! As the ramp descended a guy who’d parked his baby in a buggy in the space made a quick exit, to allow the wheelchair to be parked.

Courtesy 5 – At the next stop, a lady with a buggy and two other children,  needed to get on, but after other passengers told her the wheelchair space was occupied, she moved on.

London buses are generally friendly places and people often talk to each other.

I’ve actually never seen an argument over the wheelchair space in London.

I do wonder if this courtesy is helped, by London’s bus design, which always has a separate entrance and exit. The exit doubles as the wheelchair entrance.

August 28, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts On The Buxton Line

In these four posts.

I describe an enjoyable trip up from Manchester Piccadilly station up and down the Buxton Line to Buxton station.

These are some thoughts.

Rolling Stock

The Buxton Line is very stiff for a railway in England. Wikipedia says this about the rolling stock.

Due to steep gradients on this line, Class 142 and Class 153 DMUs are banned from the section of line between Hazel Grove and Buxton. Therefore, services to Buxton are worked by Class 150 and Class 156 DMUs. Also Class 158 DMUs were once blocked from operating on the line to Buxton due to the possibility of the large roof-mounted air vents striking low bridges on the route.Piccadilly to Hazel Grove services used Class 323 electric multiple units up until 2008.

I went up in a Class 150 train and came down in a Class 156 train.

The Class 150 train definitely found the climb a struggle and it wasn’t even that full.

I dread to think how even two Class 156 trains working together would have coped after a City-United Derby in Manchester.

The trains up and down this line need to have the following characteristics.

  • Four-cars or more.
  • Lots of power.
  • Step-free access from the platform for wheel-chair users and buggy pushers.
  • Big windows.
  • Lots of space for luggage and bicycles.

As it is a unique tourist line, what about a commentary available through the train’s wi-fi?

The Class 319 Flex train for which this Manchester to Buxton is going to be a test route, should be a lot better, but as tourism by train grows in importance for the rail companies, a need for a specialist tourism-friendly interior will need to be developed.

These are some pictures I took of a Thameslink Cllass 319/4 train, that will be the starting point for the Class 319 Flex train.

The Class 319 Flex trains could be an improvement. They’ve even got a First Class section.

Stations

When the line is run consistently by one type of rolling stock, I would hope that the platform-train step will be minimised, which I think is one of the biggest drawbacks to train travel for perhaps wheel-chair users and buggy pushers in the UK.

Not on this line, but in my recent trip to the North, on one occasion, I nearly saw a child tipped out of a buggy under a Pacer at Wigan Wallgate station. Luckily the child and the buggy was caught by two quick elderly and obviously savvy passengers.

A straight push-across gets rid of this problem. It can surely be pretty much achieved on the Buxton Line, if one one type of train works the regular services on the line.

I didn’t look in detail, but I suspect that only Stockport, Hazel Grove and Buxton are true step-free stations, although I suspect is not difficult at some stations, especially on the line going to Buxton.

The line going to Buxton is probably the most important side and it would be interesting to see how many passengers get out at intermediate stations coming down from Buxton compared to the number going to Buxton.

Some of the stations were very basic and others less so and I suspect that some improvements would be welcome, especially if on a wet day, you had to wait an hour for a train.

I would think too, that some stations have good views from the Buxton-bound platform, so is there scope to create a proper viewing place for the less-mobile.

There is certainly scope to improve the facilities at stations along the line.

Buxton Station

Buxton station has scope to be made into a proper terminus with perhaps a cafe and a comfortable waiting room.

After my experience recently, that I wrote about in A Good Day Out In A Wheelchair, some form of wheelchair or mobility scooter hire at the station might be in order.

I’ve seen mobility scooter hire at one coastal station before, but I can’t remember where. It might not even have been in the UK!

Train Frequency

This line has an hourly service, with extra trains in the Peak.

But as it is at least a double-track all the way from Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton, I’m sure that the line could be run at a frequency of two trains per hour all day. Especially, if the trains  were like the Class 319 Flex trains and had enough power to maintain a faster timetable, even when fully-loaded.

Perhaps, with two trains per hour and decent kiosks at some of the intermediate stations, it would even attract more casual walkers to explore the line.

Ticketing

The Buxton Line could be one, where the normal ticketing model will be fine for the locals, but may not be the best for tourists and casual users.

Disability Issues

I haven’t had a proper look and I’m no expert, but I do wonder if selected improvements could be made, the line could be a way for those in wheelchairs or with limited mobility to explore the area.

Conclusions

The Buxton Line is a valuable railway for the residents and visitors to the area.

I do wonder though with a small amount of selective and sympathetic development, that it could be made even more valuable.

In some ways, designing the Class 319 Flex train, so that it can work the line, can only encourage more passengers to use the route.

 

March 16, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

A Good Day Out In A Wheelchair

I have a friend, who is not the best on her feet. As she was in London on business and wanted to see Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain and I have a Membership at the Tate, which allows me to take a guest into any of the exhibitions at any time, I took her to see the pictures.

We arrived at Tate Britain in a taxi at the side entrance and in the entrance one of the staff indicated we could use the wheelchair in the entrance hall.

Judging by the number of similar chairs, I saw, it wasn’t the only one, but possibly the last one yesterday at that time.

So I pushed my friend around the exhibition, which because it was timed entry, although not for Members, wasn’t that busy.

I’d never pushed a good wheelchair before and it was surprisingly easy.

But what surprised me, was the helpfulness of Tate staff, who a couple of times cleared a way through the crowds, so I could push my friend through.

We were even able to use the Members Room, where I got another surprise. They now do gluten-free sandwiches and egg was on the menu! So I indulged!

At the end of the visit, we walked to the front of the Tate, where there were at least four waiting taxis, one of which took us to my friend’s hotel.

By the end of the day, the designer in me, was saying that had all been well thought out.

I wonder if other museums and galleries are so disabled-friendly.

March 16, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | 5 Comments

How To Annoy Customers

I just sent this message to John Lewis Card Services.

I shall be cancelling my card at the earliest possible opportunity.

I have a problem with my left arm, due to it being broken by the school bully and a stroke which didn’t help.

So for convenience, i don’t use any web sites that use the shift keys in passwords.

Why do people do this?

Passwords should always be able to be typed with one hand.

For instance, why couldn’t I use say “donald=13”?

No-one would guess that!

October 10, 2016 Posted by | Finance | , | 2 Comments

‘Wheelchair vs. Buggy’ Case Goes To The Supreme Court

The latest in this story from Wetherby is in this article on the BBC, which is entitled Supreme Court to hear ‘wheelchair vs buggy’ bus case.

I think it is interesting that this case comes from Wetherby, which I suspect doesn’t have such an intensive bus service as I have here in London or as there is in Manchester, Newcastle or Liverpool.

In London, I have never seen an argument over the wheelchair space on a bus, although I have seen some severe, but helpful reorganising, when a wheel-chair needs to be accommodated.

In London because bus frequencies are higher and there are generally shelters these days, I would suspect that most people, be they able-bodied, in a wheel-chair or with a buggy, accept that they may have to wait for the next bus.

But if there is only one bus an hour, it’s chucking it down and there’s no shelter, it’s more likely that passengers will refuse to co-operate.

So one way to mitigate problems like this, is to provide a better bus service, with more buses, better shelters and improved information.

But that all costs money!

I am not disabled, although I don’t drive because of an eyesight problem. I also because of my stroke, could have ended up in a wheelchair, so I sympathise, with those who have to use a wheelchair or electric buggy to get about.

I regularly, see passengers in wheelchairs use London buses, with their central entrance/exit, which leads straight into the wheelchair space. The design, also means the driver can deploy the ramp and do everything they need without leaving the cab. In loading a wheelchair, I’ve also seen buggy-pushers take advantage of the deployed ramp to get out of the bus to fold the buggy before getting back on.

But outside of London, where often the wheelchair user has to get in the front entrance by the driver, this creates all sorts of delays and I’ve seen on a crowded bus, virtually everybody on the lower-deck get off, to allow the wheelchair to pass through.

I wonder if outside of London, there is more resentment of wheel-chair users on buses, than there is in the capital.

In my view, all new buses should be designed for central wheelchair entrance/exit as this is so much more efficient.

I once had a discussion with a Manchester Buses union rep on a Manchester bus. He was all for the London system of no-money-on-buses, with a front entrance and central-exit passenger flow, as it cut attacks on staff.

Since then, London has gone even further and now with the ability to use any contactless bank card as a ticket, London now has one of the most advanced bus-ticketing system in the world.

We need a standardised bus-system all over the UK. It might actually encourage more people to use this often-neglected form of public transport, which would generate more revenue for a better system.

June 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 7 Comments

Disabled Passenger Numbers Hit Record Levels

The title of this post is that of an article in Rail Technology Magazine.

It certainly shows that rail companies are going the right way!

One thing you notice in London is the increase in the number of disabled and blind passengers being guided by staff.

Perhaps the perceived increase in London is due to their simple policy on help. This is said.

On the Tube, TfL Rail and Overground, station staff will also accompany you to the train and help you on board and, if needed, can arrange for you to be met at your destination. Anyone can use this service, but it is particularly used by blind and visually impaired passengers and people using boarding ramps onto trains.

If you would like to use this service, ask a member of staff when you arrive at the station.

I hope things are as relaxed elsewhere.

April 18, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , | 1 Comment

It’s Not About The Wheelchairs

First Bus are probably delighted that they have won the court case about whether wheelchair users have priority over babies in buggies. This is the first paragraph in the BBC web report.

Bus companies are not required by law to force parents with buggies to make way for wheelchair users in designated bays on vehicles, senior judges ruled.

I travel regularly on London’s extensive bus network. A couple of years ago, there was a wheelchair bay full of buggies and a lady in a wheelchair wanted to board. On London buses, the wheelchair bay is opposite the middle door, which is the one with the automatic ramp. So the driver asked if the bay could be cleared, as he lowered the ramp. One lady took her buggy down the ramp and another folded hers and passengers made sure they had one of the spacious double seats by the middle door. The lady in the wheelchair then pushed herself into the space and as there was enough space the first buggy was able to be squeezed in too!

It had all been a sensible dance up and down the ramp and the bus was fairly quickly on its way, after an amicable confrontation.

On new Routemasters, with their bigger space by the door, better layout and completely flat floor, I’ve never seen anything other than minor problems.

Compare London with what happened at Reading when I went to see Ipswich play in August.

Returning from the Madejsky stadium after the match, there was a long queue for the buses. In front of me in the queue was a guy in a wheelchair. As the downstairs of the almost brand-new double-decker was full, with at least ten standing in the wheelchair space, to get the wheelchair rider on the bus, meant virtually unloading the bus and starting again. A lot of fans were not happy.

If the bus had had a central door and wheelchair ramp, what took perhaps well over five minutes, would have been much easier and probably a lot quicker.

Given all the other advantages with two or more entrance buses, like faster loading and unloading and a possible reduction in the number of attacks on staff, isn’t it about time that all the city bus services of the UK, were made to follow London.

How about adding talking buses, bus maps understandable to everybody and cash ticketing to bring the rest of the country into the twenty-first century?

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment