Today has been a rather busy day, warranting two blog entries. I have been out and about today for work with National Express East Anglia. In fact, the journey itself was something interesting…
We have very few express services in Essex but one of them is the X30. It is an accessible coach with Wifi (when it works). I know that the X30 is not always accessible – but its worth a shot turning up, and today I had company in the form of Sheila from National Express*. I pre-warned First I was planning on travelling so you can imagine my surprise that when the coach turned up, there was already a wheelchair user onboard! I was more than happy to transfer and the coach driver was more than happy to stow my chair.
The lift onboard is something to behold. It is stowed beneath the steps and extends out. Whilst the lift comes out, the landing between the steps and the cabin lifts up to meet the cabin level. The lift handles extend automatically in a ballet of automation – truely something amazing and unexpected. You can see in the image where the floor is lifting beside the drivers seat (click the image, nothing will break).
So, on I got, off Sheila and I went to Stansted. It was quick, it was comfortable and we arrived and I was offloaded with a bit more dignity than I used to have with coaches. I liked this experience – different to say the least. But it leads me to a thought – why can’t we do this on trains? Technical fact of the wheels aside, why aren’t we considering this for one of the most popular forms of public transport? Worth asking.
The new trains
This was good fun too. I had been invited with some colleagues from Essex to look around the new class 379s and to see some training for platform and on-board staff around the trains, looking at how they train staff in deploying the ramp, assisting passengers in emergancies etc. It was very interesting to see how the training is carried out in situ. I’ve put some photos up online at my gallery – the ones in the locked file feature people and is for NXEA use only.
I was very impressed that the wheelchair area allocated (two spaces, as per DDA) is actually quite spacious. It has two seats opposite one space, a single seat opposite the other. I’m kicking myself because I didn’t get enough photos of the space as I wanted photos of the details. D’oh.
Sadly, there is one small thought about the contrasts between floor and seat, floor and grab rails. It’s not enough, which is a shame – because this train is possibly one of the best layouts I’ve experienced yet onboard a train. The other gripe is the huge lip on the toilet door – its about 2/3 of an inch and quite big for a ‘lip’. But otherwise a superb new train – something I hope to travel on again in the future.
So – there we go – a busy day. I rode back on a 379 into Liverpool Street – they are smooth and quiet, very much the sort of train you’d hope to have on your local line… maybe in the next cascade?
*Sheila is not her real name, but I don’t like to use real names unless I have permission and since I don’t have her permission yet… boys, by the way, are called Bruce. You have to be slightly older to get the joke.