I recently headed to London (O2 Academy Islington, to be precise) to see Picture This (an Irish band I’m mildly obsessed with) in concert. This involved taking a train from Chippenham to London Paddington (and back again the following day). This post recounts those journeys in full.
Ticket Buying, Assistance Booking & Getting on at Chippenham
I bought my ticket on Trainline, my go to website (and app!) for train tickets. All I had to do was select the stations I’d be travelling from and to, add my Disabled Persons railcard to get the discount and pick my train. I chose an open return ticket because I was going to a farewell get together for one of my university friends the day after the gig so was not sure what time I’d be leaving London. It remained to be seen whether this open return would prove a problem when booking wheelchair assistance for the journey. These tickets were also mobile tickets which was not something I’d encountered before.
When boarding the train, I realised it was one of the old style GWR trains so I was sat in standard class , which isn’t a problem, and I was aware of where I’d be sat because I’d prebooked a wheelchair space and the wheelchair space is in a different carriage depending on whether it’s an old or new train) so I guess that’s more just a note for everyone else (I’ll let you in on a secret, the wheelchair space on the new style trains is… IN FIRST CLASS!) . The one problem I had onboard was minor issues with luggage being placed in the wheelchair space around/ in front of me. When it comes to situations like that, it’s difficult for me to know how to react because I understand that there’s limited luggage space on trains, but also that wheelchair space is my space, I wouldn’t put my luggage in your seat, so I don’t really want your luggage in my spot.
Disembarking & Leaving at London Paddington
On arrival at Paddington the assistance was a little late turning up. This made me nervous as I didn’t want to end up stuck on the train going the opposite way and end up back where started. When assistance did turn up I almost had to disembark and drive straight into a wall because of how the train had lined up with the platform (I moved to the next carriage and disembarked there obviously). Once finally off the train, I headed to the Tube.
Assistance Booking & Getting on at London Paddington
I booked my return assistance 24 hours before the train as is always requested. There was a miscommunication which meant my assistance was initially booked for the wrong train, but I managed to get that fixed. When I arrived at Paddington Tube station I was taken from the Tube station to the main train station by a member of Tube staff. However, I then found I couldn’t get on my booked train because the coach I’d booked had been locked out due to water damage & the other coach with a wheelchair space wouldn’t fit on the platform at Chippenham. This is the kind of situation I should have been prewarned about, it’s why train companies take your phone number when you book assistance! Needless to say, I was not best pleased about the extra half hour wait for the next train.
Onboard the train, it was an old-style train, so I was in standard class. Other than that, nothing really much happened. I tend to find my issues with train travel involve getting on/off the train and not the onboard experience.
Disembarking & Leaving at Chippenham
On arrival at Chippenham, I found they did not get the message about me being on a different train than stated on my original assistance booking, because the assistance just didn’t not turn up (mostly likely BECAUSE I was not on my booked train). Thankfully, the guard was able to get me off the train and I made my way home.
Thanks to Picture This for putting on a super cool show and one of the best I’ve ever been to. I hope this post gives an insight into travelling into/out of London on the train as a wheelchair user!
Em (Invincible Woman on Wheels)