‘Bucks is the home of the Paralympics – so why are disabled transport facilities here so poor?’

Francesca Leather - who is having difficulty getting around on public transport in Bucks
Francesca Leather - who is having difficulty getting around on public transport in Bucks

A disabled woman says she has been prevented from seeing family and friends because of Bucks’ poor transport provision for wheelchair users.

Francesca Leather, who has cerebral palsy and uses an electric wheelchair, could not take Arriva buses from Aylesbury to Buckingham and Hemel Hempstead after being told they could not accommodate her.

The 21 year old has also faced difficulty with Chiltern Railways, being told she could not make journeys because no help was available.

Arriva said electric wheelchairs have to conform to size and weight restrictions and Chiltern Railways said it is not able to guarantee assistance to people who have not pre-booked 24 hours in advance.

Miss Leather, of Kerr Place, Aylesbury, said the lack of accessibility was disappointing.

She said: “As a result of this kind of treatment and an act of discrimination I have been unable to visit friends and relatives or to access leisure facilities.

“It has also severely curtailed my ability to do things myself and has had a great impact on my enjoyment of an independent lifestyle.”

Miss Leather says she gave up trying to use Aylesbury’s buses after several attempts and says taxis are too expensive.

On one occasion when she tried to take the train to Amersham, which is managed by London Underground, she was told she could not because there would be no-one to assist her on and off. Another time, when she tried to take the train to Gerrards Cross, she was told she could only go if she returned within an hour as otherwise no help would be available.

Miss Leather says after Bucks was praised as the home of the Paralympics in 2012, such treatment is not acceptable.

She said: “If Bucks as a county is truly behind this slogan about supporting disabled people then why am I and other disabled people who live in the county having to face these issues in our day-to-day lives?”

Chad Collins, Chiltern Railways’ head of stations, said: “We are committed to ensuring that our services are accessible to everyone and have made significant improvements to our stations over the years to ensure that people can travel with us easily.”

Bucks County Council said it was up to bus operators what provision is made for electric wheelchair users.