Man, 20, denied access onto First Capital Connect service from Elstree & Borehamwood because he is in a wheelchair

Benjamin, pictured at the Olympic park with his mum Erica, had an 'unbelievable time' at the athletics but Mrs Marks said it was a 'horrible start' to the day

Mrs Marks said it put the family under a lot of pressure

First published in News Borehamwood Times: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

A man's parents were left in shock when they were nearly denied access onto a train before a trip to see the Olympics because their son is in a wheelchair.

Erica Marks and her husband, David, of Beech Drive, Borehamwood, were told their son Benjamin’s wheelchair posed “health and safety issues” and they could not board the 8.15am First Capital Connect service toward central London from  Elstree & Borehamwood.

Benjamin, 20, who cannot walk or talk and requires 24 hour care, was looking forward to a day out with his parents and carer to the Olympic stadium to see the athletics.

Mrs Marks, who runs an online gift shop, said: “I asked an attendant if we could borrow a ramp to help get Benjamin onto the train easier.

“But then he said he couldn’t allow Benjamin and his wheelchair onto the train at all. I was feeling disgusted. It is crazy - you wouldn’t say that to a mother with a pram.

“The man was unhelpful and could give no reason to back up these health and safety reasons.”

Mr and Mrs Marks, whose other children are Sasha, 18, Eliana, 13, and Amber, 11, had done the exact same trip the day before with Benjamin and had no problems.

The station manager offered to send the family in a complimentary taxi to Kings Cross St Pancras, but the mum-of-four refused.

She said: “We wanted to give Benjamin a normal day out, but taking him by taxi takes him away from society and keeps him in his own bubble.

“He has the right to experience how grotty the rail network is just like everybody else going to the Olympics.

“We tried to shelter Benjamin from what happened, but I am sure he realised what happened. It put us under a lot of pressure.”

Mr Marks, who runs a printing business, told the attendant and his manager they would still be getting on the train and were prepared to accept the repercussions.

Mrs Marks added: “What ridiculous bureaucracy. It was like being punched in the face. Luckily, Benjamin had an unbelievable time at the Olympics but it was a horrible start to the day.

“I want more than an apology and for staff to be sent on disability awareness training.”

Keith Jipps, customer service director at FCC, said: “I am very saddened to hear about this.

“I am acting on their concerns as a matter of urgency and will ensure staff are re-briefed on disability awareness, and that a wheelchair ramp is installed on the London platform, platform one.

“Elstree and Borehamwood is only accessible for wheelchair users from platform one, which is why we offer customers with wheelchairs a taxi service to their nearest station.

“On behalf of FCC, I offer an unreserved apology to Benjamin and his family for causing unnecessary stress on their day out.”

Comments (6)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

11:09am Mon 13 Aug 12

chelseaboy says...

I am very disappointed with the country of my youth, considering the para-olympics are on the horizon, don't worry we have similar access issues here in melbourne.

keep up the fight
I am very disappointed with the country of my youth, considering the para-olympics are on the horizon, don't worry we have similar access issues here in melbourne. keep up the fight chelseaboy
  • Score: 0

11:38am Mon 13 Aug 12

punky47 says...

I am a wheelchair user and this happens quite often to me on public transport. I am sometimes referred to as a "fire hazard".
In his defence, the guard at B/wood station recently allowed me to travel to London.
A lift at at Elstree & Borehamwood station please First Capital Connect.
I am a wheelchair user and this happens quite often to me on public transport. I am sometimes referred to as a "fire hazard". In his defence, the guard at B/wood station recently allowed me to travel to London. A lift at at Elstree & Borehamwood station please First Capital Connect. punky47
  • Score: 0

1:21pm Mon 13 Aug 12

keithb03uk says...

I am disappointed by this, although not entirely surprised. I travel regularly on FCC trains and it is not uncommon to see wheelchair passengers on the trains during the peak period.

I know that at one point Borehamwood was considered for having lifts installed but I don't know what happened to that. It would not be the responsibility of FCC to install lifts though - it would be with Network Rail. My suspicion is that the new platform extensions at Borehamwood would also preclude the installation of lifts.

Currently the nearest fully accessible stations are St Albans and West Hampstead Thameslink.

It was intersting to find out that there is not even a ramp for wheelchair users at Borehamwood though despite Platform 1 being wheelchair accessible.
I am disappointed by this, although not entirely surprised. I travel regularly on FCC trains and it is not uncommon to see wheelchair passengers on the trains during the peak period. I know that at one point Borehamwood was considered for having lifts installed but I don't know what happened to that. It would not be the responsibility of FCC to install lifts though - it would be with Network Rail. My suspicion is that the new platform extensions at Borehamwood would also preclude the installation of lifts. Currently the nearest fully accessible stations are St Albans and West Hampstead Thameslink. It was intersting to find out that there is not even a ramp for wheelchair users at Borehamwood though despite Platform 1 being wheelchair accessible. keithb03uk
  • Score: 0

9:32pm Mon 13 Aug 12

Palma21 says...

This is a terrible and totally unecessary way to treat someone with mobility problems. Everything shoud be done to make life a little easier not more problematic. How does one manage for the return journey which stops on platform 3 ?
This is a terrible and totally unecessary way to treat someone with mobility problems. Everything shoud be done to make life a little easier not more problematic. How does one manage for the return journey which stops on platform 3 ? Palma21
  • Score: 0

11:42am Tue 14 Aug 12

punky47 says...

@Palma21
The return journey cannot be done unless you get a few mates to carry you up and down stairs.
Edgware tube now has lift and i've heard Barnet is now accessible - so Northern line then 107 or 292 bus (if ramp works). Although you would have to be able to drop down from tube train to platform - quite high for a lot of wheelchair users.
Slow route is 113 bus from Oxford Street to Edgware then 292/107 to B/wood.
@Palma21 The return journey cannot be done unless you get a few mates to carry you up and down stairs. Edgware tube now has lift and i've heard Barnet is now accessible - so Northern line then 107 or 292 bus (if ramp works). Although you would have to be able to drop down from tube train to platform - quite high for a lot of wheelchair users. Slow route is 113 bus from Oxford Street to Edgware then 292/107 to B/wood. punky47
  • Score: 0

11:59pm Mon 20 Aug 12

John Cartledge says...

While Erica and David Marks' disappointment on finding that there are no special facilities at Elstree & Borehamwood station to assist their wheelchair-using son Benjamin is understandable, this should not have come as a surprise to them ("Horrible start to Olympic day", Borehamwood Times, 17 August). And Mrs Marks' assertion that "He has the right to experience how grotty the rail network is just like everybody else" propounds a right that some passengers might willingly forgo.

The sad reality is that much of the railways' infrastructure (including the platforms at Elstree) dates back to Victorian times, when trains had short wood-framed carriages with hinged doors and running boards (i.e.plank steps) used to enter or alight from them. Wheelchairs were barely invented, let alone carried on public transport - except perhaps in luggage vans. The rail industry is still struggling to cope with this physical legacy.

All train companies are required to publish a Disabled Persons' Protection Policy (DPPP). First Capital Connect's policy can be found on its website. This makes it clear that staff assistance will be provided if the company's Assisted Travel Helpline is contacted at least 24 hours in advance, but that it cannot be guaranteed if no notice is given. It also explains that in some circumstances a taxi will be provided for all or part of a journey (at no extra cost) if train travel is impracticable. But to turn up unannounced is always to court the risk of disappointment.

The DPPP contains a link to the "Stations made easy" pages of the National Rail Enquiries website, which give details of the facilities at every station. These in turn show that there is no ramp for train access at Elstree. The member of staff approached by Mr and Mrs Marks was quite right to give health and safety as the grounds for refusing to try to manoeuvre their son's wheelchair on board, because the risks both to Benjamin and to any helper in attempting to bridge the gap (both horizontal and vertical) between the platform and the train are obvious.

No ramp is provided on platform 1 (for trains towards London) because only this platform can be reached without using steps, and it is difficult to convey the message that a station has only partial access.. Confusion is easily caused for passengers who assume that if part of a station is accessible, all of it will be, and who are therefore in danger of arriving at Elstree at one of the other three platforms and finding themselves stranded. And no staff are regularly rostered to work on the platforms at Elstree, as distinct from at the ticket gates or in the booking office.

Happily, the situation is about to change for the better. The Department for Transport has announced that, as part of its Access for All programme, a new footbridge incorporating lifts will be built at Elstree next year. Once step-free access to all platforms is available, similar access to trains (using ramps) will logically follow. But staff will still be needed to put these into position, and failure to notify the train company in advance may still result in their not being available, especially at less-busy times.

John Cartledge

Haddon Close, Boreham Wood
While Erica and David Marks' disappointment on finding that there are no special facilities at Elstree & Borehamwood station to assist their wheelchair-using son Benjamin is understandable, this should not have come as a surprise to them ("Horrible start to Olympic day", Borehamwood Times, 17 August). And Mrs Marks' assertion that "He has the right to experience how grotty the rail network is just like everybody else" propounds a right that some passengers might willingly forgo. The sad reality is that much of the railways' infrastructure (including the platforms at Elstree) dates back to Victorian times, when trains had short wood-framed carriages with hinged doors and running boards (i.e.plank steps) used to enter or alight from them. Wheelchairs were barely invented, let alone carried on public transport - except perhaps in luggage vans. The rail industry is still struggling to cope with this physical legacy. All train companies are required to publish a Disabled Persons' Protection Policy (DPPP). First Capital Connect's policy can be found on its website. This makes it clear that staff assistance will be provided if the company's Assisted Travel Helpline is contacted at least 24 hours in advance, but that it cannot be guaranteed if no notice is given. It also explains that in some circumstances a taxi will be provided for all or part of a journey (at no extra cost) if train travel is impracticable. But to turn up unannounced is always to court the risk of disappointment. The DPPP contains a link to the "Stations made easy" pages of the National Rail Enquiries website, which give details of the facilities at every station. These in turn show that there is no ramp for train access at Elstree. The member of staff approached by Mr and Mrs Marks was quite right to give health and safety as the grounds for refusing to try to manoeuvre their son's wheelchair on board, because the risks both to Benjamin and to any helper in attempting to bridge the gap (both horizontal and vertical) between the platform and the train are obvious. No ramp is provided on platform 1 (for trains towards London) because only this platform can be reached without using steps, and it is difficult to convey the message that a station has only partial access.. Confusion is easily caused for passengers who assume that if part of a station is accessible, all of it will be, and who are therefore in danger of arriving at Elstree at one of the other three platforms and finding themselves stranded. And no staff are regularly rostered to work on the platforms at Elstree, as distinct from at the ticket gates or in the booking office. Happily, the situation is about to change for the better. The Department for Transport has announced that, as part of its Access for All programme, a new footbridge incorporating lifts will be built at Elstree next year. Once step-free access to all platforms is available, similar access to trains (using ramps) will logically follow. But staff will still be needed to put these into position, and failure to notify the train company in advance may still result in their not being available, especially at less-busy times. John Cartledge Haddon Close, Boreham Wood John Cartledge
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree