Happy New Year! Can you believe that it is 2015 already? Time flies! I wish you and your families a prosperous New Year, let’s make it a great one!
The contribution to my blog today comes from a regular passenger on the Golden Railway and friend – Johan Beukes.
Johan is a disabled passenger and I thought it would be good to get a perspective from his point of view on commuting daily by train.
I want to thank Jade for this opportunity to write on his blog.
I met Jade when he was still a Conductor. One can only admire Jade for the passion and love he has for all trains and his job. Jade also showed a lot of interest in the balance between disability and how the Golden Railway accommodates these people. What he did not know about disability he researched and enquired about. (I did not pay Johan to say these nice things about me! – Jade 😉)
This brings me to what I want to talk about – disability and the facilities on the Golden Railway.
I am referring to my experience as a disabled person, though I cannot speak on behalf of any other disability or disabled person.
There is a saying: ‘We adapt, we don’t expect!’
As disabled people, we have to adapt to our environment, change our way of thinking, our way of living and our way of getting around. This is where the Golden Railway is a wonderful way of getting around in Central Gauteng being in a wheelchair. Come, ‘walk’ with me and spend a short time on a daily trip.
Even before I arrive at my departure point, the Rhodesfield Station, there are a lot of valid reasons about why I could not go to work, but, I’ve made it this far. It will be a total waste of good energy and time not to go to work!
The thought of seeing my ‘travel buddies’ on the train and a different group on the bus makes it also worthwhile and exciting using the train. In the afternoon I hardly travel with anyone I know but I meet different people all the time. From the disabled section where I have to sit, I can see all the passengers. The ones in love, angry ones, the beautiful ones, I see them all and it makes traveling so much more interesting.
While waiting for a Customer Services Employee to assist me out of my mini-van or any other helpful soul for that matter, I’m going through a checklist in my mind:
– Do I have to load money for traveling on my Gold Card? (Gold Card, no it is not a ‘special’ card – it’s the train ticket). It is in the corporate colours and branded for the Golden Railway. All passengers are issued with this branded card.
– Then I’m thinking about the lifts. Are all the lifts at all the stations I’m making use of working?
If a lift at a station is not working I have to travel to the next station, board a train back to the station where the lift was not working! The logic behind that is, I’m getting off on the opposite platform, where I do not have to use a lift to get out of the station. Using the stairs is out and using the escalator is a big no-no! Wheelchairs are not designed for stairs and escalators! Thinking about it, if I am on a platform in an emergency situation, where my only way out of the station is to use a lift, I’m ‘toast’!
Working lifts are important also because the trains and busses are scheduled to leave at certain times, and so do I, to arrive at my office on time. I make use of five lifts in the mornings and only one lift in the afternoon.
It has happened where, when I have gotten off at a station, I did not notice that a lift is out of order. This is extremely upsetting as I now am forced to wait for the next train, approximately 8 to 10 minutes at this station and a further 8 to 10 minutes for the next train back to my original stop where the escalator was not working. After this journey I have to wait for the bus. By now I am an hour late for my office.
In all it is still better to use the train. We tend to forget the good and remember the bad. I like to greet the passengers and have light conversations with them. It is for me very important to greet the Train Drivers. The main reasons being to say hello and also to make the Driver aware that I am boarding his/her train.
On some occasions I am not able to greet the Driver due to being surrounded by abled bodied passengers. As the station starts to fill with passengers, they block my view. They stand in front of me, next to me and the most horrible experience for me, climbing over my feet! At Marlboro station, abled passengers on their way to the airport, have half of the platform to ‘camp out’ but, as it turns out, they have to do that in front of me!
What I would like to mention for all to know is that able bodied persons use and occupy the designated disabled parking spaces, toilets, and seats on the train. Also why ‘men’ do not stand up to offer a seat for ladies and senior citizens?
Getting in and out of the train is a dream. To sit in the Disabled Section, now that can be a nightmare! This is where the Conductor must be visible! It is important for them to educate able bodied passengers regarding designated disabled section on the train. By keeping those eight small areas open at all time. The Conductor points passengers away from the Disabled Section.
When passengers are occupying the Disabled Section, together with their luggage, and a disabled person boards it creates havoc and by the time that section is cleared, the train is almost at the next stop and the journey was made with unhappy, angry passengers!
I fell in love with the convenience the train offers. There is no traffic to face by driving to and from work. I can start my work day with a smile. I don’t have to look for parking. The train and platforms are always clean. If you miss a train, you don’t have to wait long for the next train. But please remember, if you have got a plane to catch, you must take into account all the possibilities like for example there is the odd occasion when the train breaks down (it is, after all public transport), though this is very few and far between.
Enjoy the ride, take some time and explore shops and business around the stations. Use different bus routes and see where it takes you. Smile and greet the Security, Customer Service Staff and Train Crew.
Should you have a complaint, send it to the ‘complaint officer’ but please don’t stop there, also write to praise and thank them as well.
As mentioned before, there is more positive than negative in using the Golden Railway!
I am looking so forward for the Golden Railway to extend their rails and expand.
Johan Beukes is a Senior Network Administrator for Vodacom. He mainly does Network Monitoring (Critical Servers only), Network Reports and Network Problem Solving.
I think that Johan is very positive and we need more positivity and people like him in this world. We as ‘able bodied’ people can learn to be more aware of our surroundings, be considerate and make a concerted effort not to inconvenience disabled people.