Travelling from Chippenham to Birmingham New Street (via Bristol Temple Meads) as a Wheelchair User? Here’s How I Did It

Here’s another train travel blog. This time, my long overdue review of my trip from Chippenham to Birmingham New Street (via Bristol Temple Meads) for the Aston University (where I’ll be a student by the time you read this!) Postgraduate Open Day back in June.

Outbound

Ticket Buying & Getting On at Chippenham

Tickets were bought on Trainline as per my usual ticket buying method. On the day of travel, I made myself known to staff at the station 20 minutes before train departure and then made my way across to the platform. It seemed that on this day there were fewer staff than usual, but the assistance was still well provided in a timely fashion.

On Train

On the train, there was nothing of note to report as it was only 30 minutes so a short journey. Free coffee was a massive bonus as usual though!

Disembarking & Leaving at Bristol Temple Meads

On arrival at Bristol Temple Meads, the on board staff waited with me until assistance staff arrived with the ramp which was more reassuring than being left on the train obviously. I then made my way through the large station and waited for my next train at the assisted travel desk.

Getting On at Bristol Temple Meads

For boarding my Cross Country train to Birmingham , the assistance on to the train arrived well in time for said train. However, it must be said that the ramp onto the train way steeper and that if there’s some ramp gradient guideline for trains it probably doesn’t meet those guidelines. So, I would be extra careful when boarding these trains.

On Train

The wheelchair space on the Birmingham train was quite small and my wheelchair barely fit. This confused me because it’s a small Motability standard electric wheelchair so surely it should be big enough to fit anywhere?! I was also surrounded by luggage which made for quite a claustrophobic train ride. 

Disembarking & Leaving at Birmingham New Street

I found the corridor really tight to navigate when trying to exit the train. Remember that ramp that I said was steep getting on the train? Yeeeaaaaah, turns out it’s even worse going down, particularly if you add in spatial awareness issues like I have. I have to say that the staff at Birmingham New Street were excellent and really helpful in guiding me down the aforementioned steep ramp.

Return

Getting On at Birmingham New Street

When it came to starting the return journey from Birmingham New Street, I arrived well in time before my train, even more than the requested 20 minutes prior to train departure. I then found that they’d repositioned the assistance desk from where it was last time I visited, so I asked where it was and was guided there by station staff. Being so early allowed me to get food etc. before my train which was a bonus. The ramp was again quite steep, maybe this is a specific problem for Cross Country trains?

On Train

On the train, the wheelchair space was again small and cramped, and yet again I was surrounded by luggage. Is this sounding déjà vu from the outbound journey? It felt like déjà vu.

Getting On at Bristol Temple Meads

Getting off the Birmingham, there was steep ramp down again, which station staff said should be longer (and therefore less steep) when I asked them about it. This made me wonder: why isn’t it a longer ramp then? I’m not saying that’s the station staff’s fault, but if there’s a problem known by someone, maybe we could try and fix said problem?! I must say though that what I thought would be a tight 20 minute connection was in fact not that tight a connection as I was straight off one train and taken straight to the other one.

On Train

On the train from Bristol Temple Meads to Chippenham there was really nothing to report. There were some concerns from on train staff that Chippenham was unmanned due to my late travel time but these worries turned out to be unfounded as Chippenham WAS manned. I must say that I was glad for the ample space in GWR train wheelchair spaces after the cramped Cross Country.

Disembarking & Leaving at Chippenham

When it came to disembarking at Chippenham, station staff got me off the train with the ramp and I was able to make my own way home.

I hope this gives an insight into my journey from Chippenham to Birmingham and particularly insight into what it’s like getting connecting trains as a solo wheelchair user!

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

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