Blackpool North station called "appalling" amid queues - days after disabled woman is refused train travel

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Blackpool North train station was called "appalling" as pictures showed a crowd of passengers waiting for trains.

The busiest weekend of the year, with the Illuminations Switch-On held on Friday night before Britney Spears' concert on Saturday, coincided with a RMT union strike, which followed months of chaos on the rail network.

In a message to rail operator Northern, Twitter user @Christiesgal said she was "standing in a huge queue at Blackpool North" and had been given "no info".

She added: "Told to queue for Preston for 30 min to be moved to a different queue! Shambles! Staff don't even know what's going on."

Northern said yesterday's 10.41am service was delayed because of a fault on the train, and said: "We cannot let people on the train 'til this has been resolved.

"Sorry for the inconvenience this has caused."

A video posted to Facebook by Sara Harvey, who blogs about her experiences with autism, was shared almost 5,000 times and seen almost 375,000 times. (Picture: Facebook/Sara Harvey/Agony Autie)

A video posted to Facebook by Sara Harvey, who blogs about her experiences with autism, was shared almost 5,000 times and seen almost 375,000 times. (Picture: Facebook/Sara Harvey/Agony Autie)

Passenger @HipsterDashie asked why passengers were not being allowed onto the platforms, and was also told the "service is currently being affected by a train fault and we cannot allow customers to board until it has been resolved."

And @NeilClarke3 called on station bosses to "let us through the barriers" to the concourse, and said: "They only opened one gate in the end.

"People (families) were very stressed out and the train (old Thameslink) was full and standing.

"One train an hour to Preston on a Sunday!"

Queues at Blackpool North train station on Sunday, September 2, 2018, during the Illuminations Switch-On weekend, which also saw Britney Spears perform in the resort'(Picture: @Christiesgal/Twitter)

Queues at Blackpool North train station on Sunday, September 2, 2018, during the Illuminations Switch-On weekend, which also saw Britney Spears perform in the resort'(Picture: @Christiesgal/Twitter)

He said he asked a worker why passengers were not allowed to enter the station, and claimed to have been told: "The police 'won't let us.'"

Shortly before noon yesterday, the county's British Transport Police department said Blackpool North was "very busy earlier this morning and the station had to be closed briefly due to crowding issues.

"We have officers on scene to assist rail staff. Normal working has been resumed."

A spokesman for Northern said: “Late on Sunday morning a train due to travel from Blackpool North to Manchester Airport developed a fault and was unable to complete its journey.

“As a result a large number of customers had to wait at Blackpool North station for the next service causing congestion at the station.

“British Transport Police took the decision to temporarily close the station – for around 30 mins – to allow the congestion to ease.”

The social media anger came after a video posted to Facebook by Sara Harvey, who blogs about her experiences with autism, was shared almost 5,000 times and seen almost 375,000 times.

Broadcast live from Blackpool North, the seven-and-a-half-minute clip shows Sara crying as she says she was not allowed to travel because neither she nor her husband could carry her mobility scooter onto a train.

In a later video, she said: "We were on our way back home from a short family break to Blackpool, which was amazing.

"Blackpool was so lovely - the people incredible - and we had just done a review at the Sandcastle water park about autism-friendliness and disability-friendliness.

"I use my mobility scooter to get around everywhere because I can only walk about two or three minutes.

"When we got to Blackpool, we got there fine because I had assurances from senior management that this would not happen again.

"They came to my house after the first time it happened to discuss about changing the policy, and we're due to meet in a few weeks to change the policy."

On its website, under frequently asked questions, Northern said: "For safety reasons we can't take any mobility scooters on our trains unless they are able to be folded down before you board, and carried on like luggage. Please ask platform staff for assistance if you need help when boarding the train with your mobility scooter."

Sara continued: "They [people using a scooter] have to do this for themselves or their carers have to do it. The staff won't help. That's their policy.

"My husband was there, yes, and he's my carer. But he had a suitcase with him. He had my son. There's just no way he could have done everything they were requesting us to do.

"He cannot carry on the scooter.

"I tried to reason with the gate staff. I pleaded with them actually to not do this."

Sara, who said she booked assistance and paid £100 for tickets, said she was refused entry to the station after being asked whether she could get off her scooter and fold it up.

She and her family got home via a taxi from resort firm C Cabs, and told her 43,000 followers: "We had an incredible time in Blackpool...I can never take my son or family [there] again though until I get a wheelchair."

A Northern spokesman said: “We are truly sorry to the customer for again having to face problems whilst travelling with Northern. We paid for road transport from Blackpool to Chester to ensure Sara could get where she needed to be. We are now investigating what happened on Thursday.

“We remain committed to working with Sara and other disabled transport specialists as we further develop our policy on mobility scooters – we are also seeking their expertise and guidance in terms of how our staff can be more autistic and disabled aware.

“Because of space and access restrictions on our current train fleet and at some stations – many of which are a product of the Victoria era – we are currently unable to accept non-folding scooters. However, as new trains are delivered and our stations are improved we will seek to change this.

“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that any person – regardless of disability, age or restricted mobility – can travel effortlessly and restriction free on any of our trains and stations across the network.”

Northern said it had expected to run around 30 per cent of services on Saturday, with cancellations on a "minority of routes" yesterday because of "ongoing engineering work".

Planned changes included running one train to and from Preston to Blackpool South; and two buses an hour to and from Preston to Blackpool North, with some trains also running.

The RMT was in dispute with Northern over its plans to cut the guard role from services in the region, citing safety concerns.