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Disabled Supporters Stranded At Stratford

Blind Hammer looks at the continuing scandal of Stratford Rail Services leaving Disabled Hammers in the lurch.

When life long Hammers Joe and Alison Wiley leave their Wickford home to journey to West Ham they can rarely relax.

Joe has Motor Neurone disease. But this is not what concerns him.

Joe battles daily to overcome tiredness and fatigue but this is not what is most on his mind.

What concerns Joe is that Stratford Rail services are yet again jeopardising his proud record of supporting West Ham. Amazingly in 40 years Joe has only missed 2 home games. This would be extraordinary for any of us but for Joe to maintain this with years of Motor Neurone to overcome is a magnificent effort.

When West Ham were awarded the prize of the Olympic Stadium we were promised a world-class transport infrastructure as part of the deal. Yet for Disabled Supporters Stratford are consistently reneging on this deal.

When Joe and his wife Alison are helped onto their train at Wickford they are promised that staff assistance and a ramp will be at Stratford. Joe and his wife can then continue their journey on the West Ham Accessibility Bus.

Yet as their train enters Stratford Joe and Alison never relax into a happy anticipation of the match. They are not thinking of how West Ham will fare against Everton. They are instead wondering, will the help actually be there ?

Distressingly for Joe and Alison yesterday was yet another bad day. As the train arrives the platform is barren of any ramps or Staff assistance. Yet again Joe and Alison are lurched into a frantic effort to stop themselves being propelled onto Liverpool Street against their will.

Yesterday, fellow Hammers noticing their calls for help, come to the rescue. The train driver leaves his cab to review the situation. In the end he organises 4 of the Claret and Blue Army to carefully and painstakingly lift Joe and his Wheelchair out of the train onto the platform. This is less than dignified for Joe.

If this was an isolated incident this would be bad enough. Yet yesterday was the 5th time that Joe and his wife had been left abandoned at Stratford.

Joe consistently complains at this neglect. He has been given compensation in relation to one incident and was promised compensation in relation to another which has never been forthcoming.

However, Joe does not need compensation but simple straightforward access. He simply wants to relax, like the rest of us, confident that when he travels to support his beloved Hammers he can do so without having to organise a major drama just to get off a train.
Joe is not and isolated case. His complaints echo that expressed by other Disabled West Ham Supporters at the West Ham disabled Supporters Board. It accompanies other complaints about Accessibility at Stratford, including the apparently permanently broken down lifts, one of which has not worked since before Christmas.

West Ham have said that they will do anything they can to support their Disabled Supporters attending games. It is time for then to turn up the heat on Stratford Rail Services.

David Griffith

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About David Griffith

My Father, born in 1891 was brought up in the shadows of the Thames Ironworks Memorial Ground. I remember as a child jumping over the settee when Alan Sealy scored in our 1965 European Cup Winners triumph. My first game was against Leicester in 1968, when Martin Peters scored what was adjudged by ITV’s Big Match as the Goal of the Season. I became a season ticket holder in 1970. I was registered blind in 1986 and thought my West Ham supporting days were over. However in 2010 I learnt about the fantastic support West Ham offer to Blind and other Disabled Supporters. I now use the Insightful Irons in-stadium commentary service and West Ham provide space for my Guide Dog Nyle. I sit on the West Ham Disabled Supporters Board and the LLDC Built Environment Access Panel. David Griffith aka Blind Hammer

4 comments on “Disabled Supporters Stranded At Stratford

  1. I am Alison and is my Husband. And it breaks my heart to see joe go though his daily struggle with MND. But to add to this a simple thing like train travel for many is so hard for him and I see the embarrassment on his face. Which is not seen my others. Something needs sorting

  2. As someone who has a relative with mnd I have every sympathy. I pre book wheelchair assistance and most of the time they are there and are very helpful but have also had occasions when they are not. It’s worse obviously at extremely busy times when there are a lot of passengers passing through. As someone who works on the railway I understand staff are extremely stretched at times. I also have sympathy for the train driver who is time pressured and has a delayed train to explain to his bosses. Train drivers are not trained in platform duties concerning the use of ramps or disabled passengers. For that reason the train driver is actually risking his job to get involved. Should anything go wrong or an accident occur he would be liable. It sometimes occurs that the platform staff trained to deal with disabled passengers and put the ramps to the trains are caught up helping a disabled passenger on another platform or another area of station. Or sometimes staff go sick, or are running late etc. I suppose the answer is that the railway company needs to provide more staff at peak periods such as when a football match is on and there are many thousands of extra passengers to deal with.

    • All fair points Sarah and I too have great sympathy for over stretched staff. But the fact remains that Stratford will be busy for a West Ham game should not be a shock by now. The fixture list is known at least weeks in advance and failure to organise staff to meet an entirely predictable demand is, in my view, simply a gross management failure. for which they should be accountable

  3. Hi all, I work at disability equality charity Scope. We’re campaigning for improvements to public transport for disabled people. We’re a national charity but our headquarters are actually in the Olympic Park – you can see the ground from our office. I’m looking for people who’d be happy to share their stories in the media to raise awareness of issues like this. I think your story would really make people listen. Joe and Alison, or any other fans who’ve experienced problems like this, if you are interested in being involved please do get in touch with me. My email address is laura.burnip@scope.org.uk or you can call me on 0207 619 7200. If anyone can pass this message on to Joe and Alison directly that would be great.

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