Northern trains: Hearing impaired Leeds man hits out at 'discrimination' as operator apologises for platform issue

A rail operator has apologised after a hearing impaired Leeds man missed his train and connection – because a platform change was only announced over the tannoy.
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Doug Paulley, 45, who has limited hearing and has a hearing aid, had booked for assistance for a Northern train from Harrogate to Leeds on Wednesday, July 26, and arrived 20 minutes in advance. It was the first leg of his journey connecting to Manchester.

Mr Paulley, who also uses a wheelchair, said that while display screens did not show any change, there was a tannoy announcement that he was unable to hear due to the “very noisy engine” of another train.

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The announcement told passengers to move to the opposite platform.

Doug Paulley, who is hearing impaired, has hit out at train operator Northern over "discrimination".Doug Paulley, who is hearing impaired, has hit out at train operator Northern over "discrimination".
Doug Paulley, who is hearing impaired, has hit out at train operator Northern over "discrimination".

He said: “Confusion reigned, eventually everybody else went across and I was too late. I felt so upset and frustrated, so discriminated against. I don't deal well when my clearly set out plans are changed at short notice, or at all.

"Gateline staff were helpful, but they were more concerned about my ticket which wasn't valid for any other service. I was more upset about the stress and being late.”The disability activist took to social media to express his upset and concerns with accessibility. He tweeted that the Northern “procedures are so slapdash and ableist”.

Mr Paulley, from Wetherby, missed the train and was forced to get a later one, which meant he would also miss his connection.

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He said he was eventually helped onto the later train by a supervisor.

A conductor wrote a note for Mr Paulley, asking for him to be allowed onto another service due to platform alterations and that “duty of care for this passenger was poor”.

Mr Paulley said: “She was great and helped loads and her kindness shone through – but she couldn't undo the distress and lateness of the whole thing.”

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Mr Paulley said he believes that the ticket office closures will make matters worse for the disabled community.

He said: "In many stations, the ticket office staff are the only staff on the station. Cutting [staffing] hours means that disabled toilets and heated waiting rooms aren't open, staff aren't available to escort people across the tracks where there are inaccessible footbridges or to guide blind people.

"When staff are there, the fact they aren't in the ticket office means that we may not find them – guide dogs are trained to take people to the ticket office, and if they're on another, inaccessible platform, I'm stuck.

"Some disabled people's discounted tickets are only available from the ticket office. Many disabled people can't use ticket machines and many aren't on the Internet.

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“Disabled people need staff, dependably present and in a known position, for us to access the railway dependably and in safety. Without them, spontaneous and other travel is impossible or unsafe.”

Tony Baxter, regional director at Northern, said: “We are sorry for Mr Paulley’s experience while travelling with us and that he didn’t receive the standard of customer service that we normally expect of ourselves. Once station staff were made aware of what had happened, Mr Paulley was helped onto the next available train.

“Providing an accessible railway is vitally important for Northern and we have made significant improvements across our network in recent months to help those with accessibility needs. We have installed more than 230 new display screens at 93 stations, provided new passenger assist points at our larger stations and are installing 83 fully accessible toilets across the network.”