Travelling behind bars by keith armstrong
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Travelling behind bars by keith armstrong

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Up until of the 1990's the only way British wheelchair users were allowed to travel (after having to book a day in advance and buying a rail ticket) was in a 'guards van'.

Up until of the 1990's the only way British wheelchair users were allowed to travel (after having to book a day in advance and buying a rail ticket) was in a 'guards van'.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_ys8-5wWyM
Despite this type of carriage being known as 'the Guard's van', it was very rare for a railway employee i.e. a Guard) to actually be in the van. There was no heating, nor was there any additional seating for companions of wheelchair users, or Tannoy speakers or even an alarm. There was a charge of course for the train ticket, although a discount was given.

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Travelling behind bars by keith armstrong Travelling behind bars by keith armstrong Document Transcript

  • Travelling behind Bars Rail travel in the UK in 1980's by Keith Armstrong London 2013
  • Acknowledgements I would like to thank the many people who have helped me to live and given me the energy and encouragement to complete this article. All photographs taken by the author I must point out that any factual errors or sentiment unwittingly suggested are my responsibility alone. The punctuation and typeface of the authors quoted have at times been modified. All rights are reserved. The author's moral rights are asserted. No part of this paper may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from the author. © Copyright 2013 Keith Armstrong, London.
  • Up until of the 1990's the only way British wheelchair users were allowed to travel (after having to book a day in advance and buying a rail ticket) was in a 'guards van'. Despite this type of carriage being known as 'the Guard's van', it was very rare for a railway employee i.e. a Guard) to actually be in the van. There was no heating, nor was there any additional seating for companions of wheelchair users, or Tannoy speakers or even an alarm. There was a charge of course for the train ticket, although a discount was given.
  • I was once put on the wrong train by a British Rail employee and ended up in Slough. When I questioned the guard, he said that he had announced the destination three times on the speaker system, I had to point out that none of these speakers reached the carriage that I had been put in. I am amazed that, as far as I know, no female wheelchair user was ever sexually assaulted in this type of carriage, considering she would have no access to any alarm bell, nor would it be likely for any witnesses who could get help. The use of this carriage represents a policy of segregation of wheelchair users by the British Rail Board although people have been using wheelchairs in the UK for far longer than the existence of the train.
  • At one time in the late 1980's I travelled to Birmingham and as luck would have it I shared the guards-van with the disabled television presenter Sian Vasey. I asked her about her return journey. She told me that someone had left the window wide open which she could not close and was made ill because of the cold draft. Alan Kerr told me that he rarely travelled by train because of the guard's van. He said "I was travelling up from Chatham and was stuck in the cage and the door for the platform was on the other side. I recall screaming and shouting to get passengers to get the Guard to release me. Another major reason was and still is the accessibility of the station platforms".
  • As of 2013 there are NO plans to make the new expensive CROSS RAIL fully accessible to wheelchair users. John Evelyn (a contemporary of Samuel Pepys) recorded the use of a wheelchair in his diary entry of the 11th January, 1672, the earliest passenger train in England only dates back to September, 1825, one hundred and fifty-three years later. [Oxford English Dictionary, (2nd Ed.), 1989, Vol. XX., p. 203.] What the lowering of the standards of living, the slash in income and the rise in train fares, rail travel is no longer affordable for the vast majority of disabled people in the UK. British Railways (BR) 'Guard's van': photographs taken in the late 1980's. http://jpgmag.com/stories/15541 Video: Travelling behind Bars - rail travel in 1980's http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_ys8-5wWyM OR https://vimeo.com/77252859