An absolutely mammoth train travel/access review post for you today. Birmingham New Street to London Euston and back with West Midlands Trains and Virgin Trains (which now no longer exists) and an access review of Indigo At The O2 for Cage Warriors 111.
(Disclaimer: I’m aware “accessibility” means different things to different people, as I said before, these are MY views on my experience of accessibility at this venue as an electric wheelchair user, I obviously can’t speak for others experiences but feel free to add your experiences in the comments!)
Train & Tube Outbound
Tickets were booked through Trainline as usual and I booked the train assistance through Cross Country Trains. I did it this way, despite Cross Country not being one of the companies I travelled with, because both West Midlands Trains and Virgin trains insisted on having my wheelchair dimensions before booking the ramp and this was not something I’d ever previously been asked for before on any journey with any train company so it wasn’t information I was willing to suddenly have to give.
Birmingham New Street to Euston to Uxbridge
I arrived at the New Street assistance reception 20 minutes before the train and was taken to the platform and put on the train with a ramp by assistance. There are no wheelchair space reservations allowed on West Midlands Trains (operator for this leg of the journey) but luckily there was a free wheelchair space for me to occupy. The catch was that it was next to the toilet, which is interesting when the toilet door slams every 10 minutes and you have a ridiculous startle reflex like mine. When it came time to get off the train, I had a short wait for assistance before the ramp turned up, then it was time to head for the Tube. Specifically, I headed for Euston Square. I made my way through a gate line and to the platform to find there were no staff anywhere to call ahead to Uxbridge and confirm I could disembark. The only staff member I could see was stood at a gate line which was up some stairs, which meant I had to sit at the bottom of said stairs and shout for assistance (it’s a good job I’ve learned to yell loudly over the years). However, the staff member did inform that the wheelchair access at Euston Square was only in one direction so in order to make the return journey for my train home I’d have to go on to Kings Cross on the Metropolitan line and then come back on myself, oh if only the return journey was that simple!
Indigo At The O2 Access Review
Initially, I phoned Indigo At The O2 for a wheelchair space ticket and carer ticket for Cage Warriors 111 and was told there were none left, with no mention of possible single wheelchair space tickets being available. Of course, as is standard in 2020, I headed to Twitter to express my disappointment at not being able to secure a ticket. I was particularly disappointed as there was a specific fighter (shout out Paddy Pimblett) who I was desperate to see fight live (and still am). That tweet kind of exploded and gained reaction in a way I never expected with many people trying to help me out (shout out, Paddy, Molly McCann and MMA Twitter for helping me secure an answer and a ticket from the venue). Through this reaction, I was put in touch with the venue who were able to tell me there was a single wheelchair space (no carer) ticket left for what I believe was the venue’s only access platform. Forget Cinderella shall go to the ball, Em shall go to the fights!
Travel was pretty similar to all my other trips to the O2 complex. I took the Metropolitan line from Uxbridge to Wembley Park with no ramp used, although they do have ramps. I could have used Finchley Road but they refused as it would be “easier” to use Wembley Park (easier on them I assume). I then went from Wembley Park to North Greenwich on the Jubilee line and was met off the tube and guided out of North Greenwich station. On the way back into the station post event, I was bumped and barged repeatedly whilst queuing to enter the station and on my way through the station. I then HAD to get on the busiest tube out of North Greenwich to make sure I didn’t miss the last Metropolitan line train out of Wembley Park towards Uxbridge. This meant I had to sit in the middle of the train not in the designated wheelchair space (because people were stood there). THAT meant I had to just lock my arm straight to hold onto the central pole and steady my chair in case it slid around. My arm was also repeatedly leant on to the point I thought my joints might dislocate. Thankfully I made the last Metropolitan line from Wembley to Uxbridge and then had a short wait for the ramp at Uxbridge.
Experience & Seating
On arrival at the venue, I went through a ticket check and was then led to my seat on the platform. In terms of view, I had probably one of the best views of fighter walkout that I’ve ever had, with fighter walkout being immediately to my left, I was, however, a little further back than I have been for other shows in terms of view into the cage. There was also only the one small platform which meant it was quite packed and full. I did hear an assistance staff member say the platform was “not meant for so many big wheelchairs” which baffled me completely because wheelchair dimensions had never been mentioned when I bought my ticket an, let’s face it, if access is only accessible for those with certain sizes or types of mobility aids, it’s not REALLY access. The good thing about this platform was it was right next to an accessible toilet which meant toilet trips didn’t involve trekking across the venue.
Tube, Bus & Train Return
For the beginning of my return journey back to Birmingham, there were maintenance works on Metropolitan line between Wembley Park and Aldgate. That meant that my journey back to Euston was as follows: Metropolitan line from Uxbridge to Wembley Park, then the Jubilee line from there to Bond Street, THEN the Central from there to Tottenham Court Road and finally a bus to Euston station. I made myself known at the Euston assistance desk and was then told to make my own way to the platform. I waited there and was then met by assistance staff who used a ramp to put me on the train. As per my usual gripes with Virgin Trains, there was a tight corridor and door to navigate to make it to my seat, but there was more space in the wheelchair space than I expected given how insistent they were about knowing my wheelchair dimensions prior to my attempted assistance booking. Once I arrived back at New Street, I was taken off the train pretty immediately and was able to wheel away out of the station and back to university accommodation.
I hope this shows my adventures as a wheelchair user for a weekend in the capital for the fights. Thanks as always to Cage Warriors for putting on a brilliant show and I can’t wait to be back in March for CW113
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)