A WELL-KNOWN blind campaigner from Westcliff who was left screaming and shouting for help at a train station has used her traumatic experience to highlight the problems she believes are inherent in proposed station ticket office closures.
Jill Allen-King OBE, 83, was travelling from Leigh to Oxenholme near Kendal for the National Federation of the Blind conference, when she experienced the delay of a train.
The Pride of Britain Award winner was already concerned about the journey, having had to lose her guide dog Jagger when he went into retirement earlier this year: an essential aid to her independence, for which she has as yet to be issued a replacement.
For the journey, Mrs Allen-King had booked assistance through c2c in advance, but on experiencing a 42-minute delay due to a signalling problem, was left without assistance at her destination.
Mrs Allen-King, branded the incident “one of the worst experiences” of her life, after being stranded on the station when there was no one to help her off the train.
She said: “I was stranded all by myself, and for the first time ever, was screaming and shouting, pleading for help. I was in such a state.
“After doing this for about five minutes, someone from the train operator at Avanti West Coast station finally came over and helped me.
“I was fuming with the staff member because I’d booked the assistance in advance and my train was 40 minutes late. All of this information goes to the station’s office: so, I couldn’t understand why I was failed.
“All I got was ‘they had other people to deal with.”
Having already spoken out about the dangers of the proposed clos- ures of ticket – offices, for people with vision impairment, Mrs Allen-King has used her ordeal as a case in point, showing how difficulties arise when few staff will be available to help at stations.
She added: “I’m frightened for the future. This happened when ticket offices are open.”
The rail delivery group’s plan is to shut 974 ticket offices, including at stations across south Essex, in a bid to “modernise” the Railway.
Decisions on this announcement are set to be made on October 31 between transport focus and London travel watch dogs.
Back in Mrs Allen-King’s local constituency, the MP for Southend West is currently campaigning for Mrs Allen-King to receive a new guide dog, and to be placed on the priority list, after Mrs Allen-King was told she could be waiting for up to 3 years for a replacement.
Ms Firth has also spoke out about the issues faced by people experiencing visual impairment in relation to proposed ticket office closures.
Speaking previously, she said: “innovation cannot come at the expense of passenger safety or mean that people have a worse service.
“Railways are a vital part of our local infrastructure, and I will continue to campaign to ensure that they are accessible to everyone.”
Mrs Allen-King, who is patron of local mental health charity Trust Links, has had an immense impact on the local area for blind people.
She was behind the roll-out of “tactile paving” at pedestrian crossings and campaigning for better access to public spaces for assistance dogs in the area.
An Avanti West Coast spokesman said in repose to Mrs Allen-King’s complaint: “We are really sorry to hear about Jill’s experience.
“We always aim to deliver a great service for our customers with accessibility needs and as soon as we were made aware of her complaint, we contacted her.
“We are currently looking into the circumstances of her journey to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Picture: Jill Allen-King with her guide dog Jagger, who has since retired. Pic Trust Links.
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