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Disabled woman left stranded at St Pancras asked ‘what do you want me to do’ by station staff

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A disabled woman stuck in London due to faulty lifts at St Pancras was left ‘tearful’ as staff members reportedly dismissed her concerns, asking, ‘What do you want me to do about it?’

Shona Cobb, 25, from Hertfordshire, uses a wheelchair. She was making her way home from visiting her girlfriend in Reading on October 9 when she was halted mid-journey as the lifts at St Pancras were broken.

She told MyLondon that Network Rail staff were extremely dismissive of her concerns, which brought her to tears: “They just kept saying to me, ‘What do you want me to do?’”.

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She explained: “There was absolutely no sympathy from them at all, which is really unusual for St Pancras because I usually have such a good experience with staff there, they’re really understanding.

“You know, they know me. They know the difficulties I face in trying to travel. But these people I spoke to – there was just absolutely no sympathy or empathy at all.”

Shona says she has to continue putting her trust in rail staff, even when she has been let down

Shona is a freelance writer and photographer. She also does a lot of work around disability in theatre, and often travels into London to the West End.

But this isn’t the first time Shona’s journey has been interrupted. She explained: “The lifts for the Thameslink platforms at St. Pancras have been breaking down on a regular basis for as long as I’ve been using this station.

“I’m talking about three/four years now. I think this last one had broken down twice in the space of a week.”

When the lift is broken Shona is usually given two options – to take the Tube to Farringdon for the Thameslink, or get a taxi.

This time, the wait for a taxi was around an hour. Shona was left feeling ‘anxious’ and ‘sick’, as Farringdon is a station she tries to avoid at all costs, after a previous experience there left her stranded.

Last time she used Farringdon station, she couldn’t get off the train due to a large gap between the train and the platform, and was forced to wedge her wheelchair in between the doors until someone could come and help her.

Shona Cobb

She is a freelance writer and photographer, and does a lot of work around disability in the theatre industry

She said: “They gave me the options and I was like, ‘It’s not good enough.’

“You know, this happens so often, and I was trying to explain that the Tube journey to Farringdon is not as straightforward as it seems.”

Train journeys can come with a lot of anxiety for Shona and other wheelchair users, as accessibility is largely dependent on travel conditions and rail staff on the day.

She explained: “If everything goes right, my journey is like everyone else’s, and I go about my day without any anxiety or anything like that.

“But when things go wrong, they tend to go badly wrong. It’s not little things, it’s getting stranded on a train, it’s assistance not arriving, it’s having to press the emergency button on a train or tube so that someone will come and get you off.”

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Shona says the lifts at St Pancras have been faulty for ‘years’

Shona eventually was able to get the tube to Farringdon, after a kind TfL worker rang staff at the station in front of her to pre-warn them she would be there.

“He was absolutely incredible,” she said. “One of the loveliest people I’ve ever met.”

She said of using public transport: “You put a lot of trust into strangers, which is not an easy thing to do at all, especially when you continue to be let down time and time again.

“You still have to go out there and trust people, even if yesterday you had an awful experience – because I still want to live my life, I still want to do my job and have a social life.

“And so you have to continue putting trust in a system that fails you again and again.”

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A spokesperson for Network Rail said: “We were so sorry to hear of our passenger’s difficult journey through St Pancras and we’re grateful to her for bringing it to our attention.

“An investigation has been launched into the lack of support she experienced from the station team and we are also doing everything we can to improve the reliability of our lift at the station.

“When people travel by train it’s important we provide them with the same level of service whoever they are and whatever their level of mobility. It’s clear we failed in this here and we must improve.”

Thameslink’s Accessibility Lead Carl Martin said: “Shona is one of our Accessibility Advisory Panel members whose regular feedback we take on board to improve the service we give to remove the obstacles at our stations that disable some of our customers.

“The platform humps at our central Thameslink stations have proved immensely popular with our passengers. Unavoidably, the gap does vary but we have staff on hand at all times ready to assist.”

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/zone-1-news/disabled-woman-left-stranded-st-21890166