A pensioner taken to hospital following a fall from a railway carriage after the staff assistance she prearranged failed to turn up has won a legal victory against Virgin Trains.
Grandmother Sheila Branch, 67, who suffers from chronic knee pain when descending stairs, suffered a broken wrist, severely bruised ribs and was knocked unconscious after tumbling onto the platform as she tried to disembark without help.
Virgin Trains East Coast, which operated the service from York to Peterborough, has now admitted liability over the fall in May, this year, after Ms Branch brought legal action.
The retired nurse, of Pickering, Yorkshire, said: “I started to panic when I realised there was no one there to help me and I was stranded.
“I knew the next stop was London King’s Cross and I didn’t want to be stuck there. I couldn’t see any other passengers in the carriage to help me so I thought to myself that I had to get off.
“The next thing I remember was waking with the taste of blood in my mouth and a searing pain down my right side. I’d really banged my head and felt very hazy.”
Ms Branch has now called for train operators to put in place safeguards to ensure vulnerable or disabled passengers who request assistance are met by staff when they arrive at their destination.
She added: “It’s just not acceptable to abandon passengers. Surely it’s not impossible to have a system where staff at the destination are aware of which carriage you’re in, which seat, what time the train’s arriving and make sure someone is there to meet you.
“This incident has really shaken my confidence. At my age a fall like this can have serious consequences. My memory seems to have been affected by banging my head.”
Ms Branch had booked her advanced ticket in January and notified staff that she would need assistance with stairs and getting off carriages. Ms Branch reconfirmed with staff when she arrived at York to begin her trip that help would be on hand at Peterborough.
Ms Branch’s lawyer Sarah Davidson, of Slater and Gordon, said: “Train operators owe all passengers a duty of care – and that’s particularly important for vulnerable, disabled and immobile travellers.
“In this case Virgin Trains East Coast failed to take adequate measures to ensure the journey was safe for Sheila.
She suffered quite serious injuries but they could have been far worse. We hope this is a wake-up call and the company will take steps to ensure something similar doesn’t happen to another passenger.”