South East Rail (as opposed to issues with Southern Rail) are showing a discrimination to those with Freedom Passes in that they will not give passengers (their off-peak clients) access to waiting rooms that are now and have been for years, combined with cafe concessionaries despite former waiting rooms often being boarded up and out of use.
This is because Freedom Pass Holders cannot travel until after 9.30am and therefore the first train thereafter, on a weekday (once it was any time after 9am I was told but am not sure that aspect is correct).
Obviously, seats for commuters on trains is a priority but not exclusively so what about hospital/medical appointments, holiday travel, etc, necessitating early travel? Tickets have to be purchased for time differential and may be claimed back from hospital cashiers. However, commuters can be nasty upon seeing older people travelling during their time and often overtly remark “I don’t see why they should have a seat, let them stand as they can travel any time.” Do such people think anyone old, young, or medically infirm would even choose to travel during commuter times? Even commuters themselves don’t want to be there.
One station on the Kent route that refuses to let older or Freedom Pass people into the waiting room via access through the ticket hall and a walk along the station platform is Welling, but no doubt there are others.
This is because they think those who can hardly walk in some instances may throw a lasso over a train at 9.22am as it leaves the Station thus travelling before they are ‘allowed’. That train goes to London Victoria.
It is only when that train is out of site do they let Freedom Pass holders through for the 9.34am train to stations enroute to London Bridge and Charing Cross (and respective stops inbetween). And only then because there is no other train London bound until the 9.34am after the 9.22am.
In other words they are tacitly accusing Pensioners and other Freedom Pass users as being thieves in waiting. Nice!
I also think this deprives Disability and Equality Rights and limits time for use of toilet or to purchase a hot or cold drink/food and sit down in a waiting room, yet I have seen them allow workmen through to the waiting room to buy a drink because they are coming straight back out again!
That Station has no closed front doors in operation so it is freezing cold in the ticket booth hallway especially in winter months where both window and gate ticket processing is in operation. They have one blind customer accompanied by a guide dog whom I have noticed and he too has waited to get into the station.
As there are no chairs then standing is difficult for most waiting to be allowed to sit down on the Platform Seats or given access to waiting rooms and adjacent toilets. I myself have seen a row of elderly people waiting in a freezing entrance way like an ID parade, complete with walking sticks and on some occasions frames of one type or another. Will it take one of them to drop down dead and their relatives suing the Station before waiting room access is provided? Even then it is a small cafe with limited seating and platform benches are cold yet near them is, I am told, a large boarded up waiting room used for personal storage of the staff at least according to one of their number.
There are some guards (ticket collectors is too kind a phrase and I dare not use some euphemisms I hear), who bellow rebukes at those who try to zap their Fredom Passses on the gates prematurely and even at the permitted times the gates are kept inactive to Freedom passes as the Guard wants them all to go by their controlled entrance and exit. Perhaps body searches will be next?
There are one or two nice and sensible Ticket Collectors who are rational and let people through but a lot depends on the shifts as to who is on duty.
The local MP has been told about this for many years as have South Eastern who, in the main do not acknowledge complaints or if they do, make false promises. They play to the gallery of course as far as replying to third parties.
Welling does, however, display a long table with a pot plant and staff sometimes place their own equipment at the side of the plant, either to preclude anyone trying to sit there or to help ease their own burden whilst denying others.
Admittedly, there is a rubber covering under the table across a raised area but the table proves that a long bench, capable of seating at least two or three people is possible if the official mindset was not so nasty. The Station Manager is never on duty (whether they are or not) and does not respond to voicemails.
In another corner of the entrance to the Station there would be room for a few more chairs.
The argument which I have heard staff say is that “people should turn up on time for their trains.”
There are three retorts to that.
1 Freedom Passes are given mostly, but not perhaps exclusively, to older and infirm people (no doubt infirm in any age bracket). Some with obviously outwardly visible medical or physical issues, others probably have serious internal conditions such as heart complaints and a host of other medical problems. Such passengers have to set off from home allowing time to get to the station given their health and mobility restrictions, i.e. Pace and safety in mobility.
2 Old schoolers like to allow a margin of time for numerous contingencies and may have done so all their lives. What if the train is a minute or two early? Perhaps my train is cancelled at the last minute then I will have to consider what train to catch, etc, etc.
3 If the Station wants people to get there ‘on time’ for their train then that begs the question that their train should be on time – so then why do ‘they’ need a waiting room, ie. For the money which the Cafe Concessionary pays to the Network.
If, as I have been told, there is an old large waiting room boarded up at Welling then if they think their passengers who travel around 9.34am are all thieves, (first train after 9.30), why don’t they open up that old waiting room from a street entrance but not have an access to the platform – they could have a display screen and announcements for trains then all the handicapped ‘thieves’ can simply exit the waiting room and go back into the adjacent Station Entrance.
They will need to provide access to toilets, and cafe facilities under Equality Law but then again under the Law of Equality this type of discrimination should not exist in the first place.
I know of another boarded up waiting room on a drafty station elsewhere.
As I am old enough to remember when waiting rooms had an open fire and fellow passengers chatted together or read newspapers whilst waiting for their trains, I wonder what some of them think (or would have thought) about the young pups of future days treating the weak of society in this way.
How many more stations are run the same way?
I also am really old enough to remember when station guards helped passengers on and off trains and welcomed them to their stations. They were all smartly dressed including hair pinned up or back, caps worn and uniform not scruffy, unkempt mix and match adaptations of same – no greasy straggling hair, etc.
Then again that was in the days when ticket operatives smiled and were happy caring people.
The smirks of satisfaction currently displayed on the faces of these controllers when they have to let all those potential thieves through the barriers after the 9.22 train is just a blip on the far horizon, may not be so displayed for long if the right people read this article.
Shame on you Welling Station. And Shame on you South East Rail.
Re-Nationalisation of the Railways may sort out such issues and restore smart, friendly and helpful Guards and Ticket Collectors worthy of those titles, commanding respect not initiating, controlling, bullying and instilling fear within the old and infirm.
Then not only will we have the standards of former times but we can be proud that we have!
Photo (c) Hazel Speed – used by kind permision to Tuck Magazine