Travelling from Birmingham New Street to Darlington as a Wheelchair User? Here’s How I Did It

Photo Credit: Nikki Barker

Another train travel blog, this time Birmingham New Street to Darlington and back with Cross Country Trains for a visit with my friend and editor extraordinaire Nikki!

Outbound

Ticket Buying & Getting On at Birmingham New Street

I bought my tickets on SplitYourTicket.com which as the name suggests is a train ticket splitting website where you can split a long train journey into multiple shorter journey tickets. This meant that while I only took 2 trains (one each way) I had 8 tickets in total. However, it was way cheaper than a single direct ticket, so definitely worth a look if you want to save money on travel. I then booked my assistance via the Cross Country travel assistance phone line. On the day, I arrived at the Birmingham New Street assistance lounge 20 minutes before departure and was taken from there to the train by a staff member.

On Train

I had the usual issues that I have on Cross Country trains: A steep ramp onto the train, a tight corridor to navigate and a small wheelchair space even for my standard electric wheelchair. It must be said though, the accessible toilet had many more transfer bars (i.e. bars I could use to help me transfer between my chair and the toilet) than West Midlands Railway, so that’s a slightly odd sounding plus point.

Disembarking & Leaving at Darlington

On arrival at Darlington, the assistance and ramp to get me off the train was already there when we arrived (we’ll forget that I mentioned needing a ramp and assistance off at Darlington to every single staff member that would listen several times throughout the 3 hour trip). A quick little praise point for the accessible toilet at Darlington station; it’s a radar key toilet which is self-opening (put the key in and wave your hand in front of a sensor and it’ll open without having to touch a handle). The inside was huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge, I’d dare say there was more than enough space in there for equipment to make a Changing Places toilet and still have a separate accessible toilet. I’m very aware I’ve spent half this blog post talking about toilets but hopefully that shows how important these kinds of things are to accessibility!

Return

Getting On at Darlington

When it came time to leave Darlington, Nikki was allowed  through the barrier to wait with me while I waited to get on my train. We  were directed to a waiting room directly next to  the platform my train would arrive on. About 5 or so minutes before the train arrived I was collected from that waiting room by a staff member and put on the train using a much larger, wider, more suitable ramp than the one I was used to at Birmingham New Street.

On Train

The problems on the train were the Cross Country usual. Although the ramp wasn’t so steep this time, I still had to navigate a tight corridor and small wheelchair space. There was also luggage in the wheelchair space which was thankfully cleared by staff before I got on. It was also quite a packed train so I thought it may be difficult to get out of the carriage and off at my stop.

Disembarking & Leaving at Birmingham New Street

Thankfully, my fears about problems getting off the train were unfounded and I was able to disembark the train at Birmingham New Street and leave the station with no issues.

I hope this gives insight into what it’s like to travel between these 2 stations as a wheelchair user

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

11 Comments

  1. I know Darlington station really well but not much of Birmingham New Street. I found interesting to read what a station I know so well was like from the perspective of a wheelchair user and I’m glad you found it mostly positive at Darlington! I agree that cross country trains tend to be quite tight but I am glad that you got the assistance you needed.

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  2. Hello, from New York City! In my experience, your blog is a unique view of travel and travel challenges. Your pictures are interesting and the text is very well written. I gave this entry a “like” and I am now a follower. Well done!

    Here in the US, passenger rail systems are highly inefficient, with regional and nationwide track priority going to freight carriers, not passenger services. Our patchwork of unaffiliated and often deteriorating local, regional, and nationwide rail services features many stations that lack wheelchair access.

    Our national carrier, Amtrak, recently displayed their feelings about wheelchair access in an incident that found Amtrak universally condemned for its actions. The overall issues wheelchair users face with Amtrak are detailed through the following link to the USA Today newspaper: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/2020/01/29/amtrak-trains-stations-pose-problems-wheelchair-access/4589972002/

    The figure provided above comes to £19161.34! Have you seen such corporate arrogance in your neck of the woods? I hope not. As for our local and regional trains, none of them have displayed Amtrak’s poor judgment, but they certainly do have problems. Here in NYC, many local stations lack wheelchair access, and that includes stations where trains intersect.

    The above issues with America’s rail services affect me as I also face physical challenges. Though I am not in a wheelchair at the moment, I am well aware that my deteriorating physical condition will likely result in the use of one. As it stands now, the lack of accessibility in the NYC subway system results in my use of stairs very often, and climbing them is extremely damaging to my well-being.

    I am happy this trip offered relatively few challenges to you, though I suspect that is not always the case. I will read on and learn more of your “free-wheeling” travels.

    All the best,
    Keith V.

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