A TRAIN company has offered passengers with mobility problems living near South Croydon railway station free taxis to the closest station with disabled access.
South Croydon station, on Blunt Road, has no step-free access with passengers having to go up and down a total of 38 steps to reach the platforms.
Southern, who manage the station, said it has no plans to make improvements at the Victorian train station. But they will order disabled passengers a taxi to East Croydon station free of charge.
This will be welcome news for residents like Michael Tomlin and his wife, Rosemary, who live on St. Peter's Road – just a two minute walk from South Croydon station. The retired couple travel all over the country by train three or four times a month.
Twenty years ago Mrs Tomlin, 71, suffered a brain haemorrhage that left her in a wheelchair. For ten years after this the couple used South Croydon station with Mrs Tomlin getting out of her wheelchair to walk up and down the stairs while Mr Tomlin, 72, carried the chair, with the assistance of station staff.
But then Mrs Tomlin became unable to manage the stairs and they had to stop using the station. For the past ten years Mr and Mrs Tomlin have taken a bus to East Croydon station and have to leave home 40 minutes before their train departs instead of ten.
Mr Tomlin said that South Croydon is one of the worst stations he has seen for disabled users. He said that disabled access on trains has improved a lot and East Croydon is very good, but they would rather use their local station.
"When my wife was first disabled there were slim door trains and we had to travel in the guard's van at the back of the train," said Mr Tomlin.
"Stations have got better and better as time has gone by. The assistance at East Croydon is amazing.
"But it's not just us affected there are other people with wheel chairs and women with push chairs. Even people with heavy luggage."
Georgie Ray, who lives in Blunt Road and uses South Croydon station regularly, has been pushing for better disabled access there for over three years.
"The station is a central part of the community and we want to encourage more people to use it and have access to it," she said.
Ms Ray welcomed Southern's taxi offer. But she said it needs to be more clear who can use this service, is it just disabled people or will people who cannot carry their luggage because of mobility problems be considered?
Steve O'Connell, Greater London Authority Assembly Member, is working with Ms Ray to improve the access at the station.
"Disabled access is something we really need to take very seriously and local people think the station lends itself to that need. It's something that will take time.
"There's been a lot of good work from people in the community to build up momentum and I'm happy to support them and keep the pressure on so that at some stage when a list of prospective stations [to get disabled access] is drawn up we are on that list."
A Southern spokesman said: "Currently, there are no plans to install lifts at the station, but we ensure those with mobility problems who travel to and from South Croydon station get to the nearest accessible station – in this case, East Croydon. This is usually done by taxi at no cost to the passenger."
Taxis can be arranged in advance. Passengers can book their journey using Southern's Assisted Travel helpline on 0800 138 1016, or Minicom/Textphone 0800 138 1018