Woman in wheelchair left to sit in own urine for hours after train breaks down

A woman in a wheelchair was left to sit in her own urine for hours after her train broke down.

Judy Lawson, 55, from Plymouth, boarded the 7.15pm train from St Ives, Cornwall, with an electric wheelchair following a below the knee leg amputation last year.

PlymouthLive reports Judy was coming back from a day out with her daughter and grandson when she entered the train.

However, someone allegedly pulled the stop cord and the train was kept stationary for around three hours.

Although the train had disabled toilets on board Judy was unable to fit her chair in the facilities available.

After the three hour delay the train was back underway but when Judy finally arrived at Plymouth Train Station it had gone past midnight.

Her journey was made even worse when she was waiting for the ramp to help her off the train as the air conditioning broke and poured cold water all over her.

Due to their late arrival all the buses had stopped running and many passengers had no way of getting home.

Fortunately, for most passengers GWR staff were able to organise taxis.

However, at the time no taxis available were able to accommodate Judy’s electric wheelchair, so she was left alone at a bus stop until 5am in the morning.

A spokesperson for GWR has said the company is “deeply sorry” and that an investigation is underway to understand “the exact sequence of events” and where it “went wrong”.

The company has also stated that once the investigation is finalised they will be in touch with Judy.

Judy said: “The train had a disabled toilet on it but as I’m in a big electric wheelchair I showed the conductor that I couldn’t get in the toilet.

“As soon as my chair is in, the toilet is right next to the arm of my wheelchair and the sink is right next to where my legs are.

” So there was no way I could get out at all because he [the conductor] even asked if I could take the arm off but I said no.

“As an alternative he was looking for something I could pee in. I ended up having to sit in my own accident. It was embarrassing – I couldn’t use the toilet to get changed or anything like that.”

Judy says despite the embarrassing situation the staff on the train had been helpful and had continued to give her updates.

After the three hour delay the train was back underway but when Judy finally arrived at Plymouth Train Station it had gone past midnight.

Her journey was made even worse when she was waiting for the ramp to help her off the train as the air conditioning broke and poured cold water all over her.

She said: “Just as we were about to get off the air conditioning broke and it leaked all over me. So I was soaking wet as well.”

Her journey got worse in Plymouth as because of the late arrival, buses had stopped running, so passengers were unable to make their way home.

While GWR organised taxis, at the time no taxis available were able to accommodate Judy’s electric wheelchair.

She said: “They were able to get a taxi for my daughter and my grandson, which I was grateful for.

“But when it came to me they just said they couldn’t get any disabled taxis because no taxis can take my wheelchair.”

Judy says after she was informed there were no taxis all the staff at the station left her on her own.

She added: “I was in a white skirt and a white top, and I was forced to sit at the bus stop on royal parade until half five in the morning because there was just no way I could have rode all the way back to Southway in the pitch black.

“It was scary, it is scary because I’m so vulnerable you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Judy says she asked if she could stay in the train station for safety but one member of staff left her in tears when he told her that she wasn’t allowed in because the station would be closing.

She claims this was untrue because there were passengers inside the station waiting for the sleeper train to London.

Discussing the member of staff who left her feeling upset, she said: “It was just the attitude of the person at the train station at the time. His attitude really stunk towards me, I was left in tears.

He told me they lock it up when the last train goes.”

Following her nightmare journey, Judy was offered her money back for both her train travel and her bus ticket. She was also offered a first class ticket on a GWR service.

But Judy says it’s not about the compensation and says she hopes her experience will mean that GWR improves their facilities for disabled people so no one else will have to be in a similar situation.

She also stated that if the train had not been fixed there was no way she would have been able to get off.

She said: “They had a train that came alongside it where people could walk across on a platform but there was just no way I could have done that.

“Even the conductor said there was no way I could have been able to do that. They [GWR] don’t think about a scenario in which a train breaks down and how disabled people can get off.

“I just hope GWR will now do more for disabled people. They’re willing to take money off people but they’re not willing to do more in situations like the one I found myself in.”

In response to Judy’s experience on a GWR train, GWR business assurance director Joe Graham has apologised and said the company is “deeply sorry”.

He said: “This is absolutely not the service we aim to provide. Unfortunately, events conspired against us on July 19, firstly with the substantial delay to the train.

“And subsequently with there not being a suitable taxi available anywhere at that time of night to take the customer home, and we are deeply sorry.

“We work hard to make sure all our customers can travel reliably and have measures in place to help disabled passengers to do so.

“Including a policy on the types of electric wheelchairs we are able to accommodate, and a Passenger Assistance service to help those who need it.

“We are currently investigating the exact sequence of events to understand where we went wrong and will get back in touch with Ms Lawson as soon as we have learned more.”