Recently I had to take a few trips to Sutton Coldfield for some course training (whilst we were still under national lockdown) , so I thought I’d let you know what the experience was like (travelling from Birmingham New Street) as a wheelchair user. I had to take this trip a total of 6 times (3 outbound and 3 return) but this post is just about the first outbound and return trip.
Ticket Buying, Assistance Booking & Getting On at Birmingham New Street
When it came to booking the assistance, it was pretty much the standard process, I just called West Midlands Railway and booked the assistance over the phone. I did not have to give my wheelchair dimensions this time as I had already given them for a previous assistance booking and they were stored in the system. The ticket situation is where things get a little more complicated. Initially I thought since both stations were in the free travel blue zone on my disabled travel pass that I would be able to travel for, you know, free. However, it turns out that free travel thing is only for after 9.30am and my train was at 8.25am. Cue a dash to grab a last minute ticket on Trainline the night before my trip. I did wonder if I could buy the ticket and manage not to use it. On arrival at New Street, the staff let me through the barriers with just my pass despite it being before 9:30am.I then made my way to the assistance lounge and made myself know to the staff so I could get my train. I WAS able to get a partial refund on the ticket I bought on Trainline since I never actually used or registered it anywhere on my trip.
The on train experience was pretty simple as it was only a 15 or 20 minute trip so there wasn’t really time for anything spectacular to happen.
Disembarking & Leaving at Sutton Coldfield
On arrival at Sutton Coldfield, station staff were already there on the platform which meant I was able to get straight off the train. The staff then showed me a simpler route to my location which went via a separate exit to the main one. This did involve taking one lift up to the concourse level and then another lift down to the other platform before going out of the separate exit.
Getting On at Sutton Coldfield
When getting on at Sutton Coldfield for the return trip, I used the same assistance booking without a ticket (just using my travel pass) as it was after 9:30am. When it came to actually getting on the train, I ended up getting an earlier train than my booked assistance, so I informed the security staff that I needed assistance and they went and informed the station staff on my behalf as I couldn’t actually find any of the assistance staff.
Again, the on train experience was only 15 or 20 minutes so there wasn’t time for anything dramatic to happen.
Disembarking & Leaving at Birmingham New Street
On arrival at Birmingham New Street, staff were already on the platform to greet me (as I find they usually are at New Street) which meant I was able to get straight off the train and head out of the station.
I hope that this post provides some insight into what it’s like travelling between these 2 stations as a wheelchair user whilst under national lockdown.
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)