STUDENT and wheelchair user Christina Rhoney has added her voice to calls for rail bosses to introduce more carriages to end Bolton’s “cattle truck” services.
The 18-year-old has Marfan’s Syndrome and Hypermobility Syndrome, which affects her legs and hips, meaning she cannot normally walk for more than 10 minutes at a time.
However, she has not let this stop her enrolling on a course at Manchester Metropolitan University, but says Bolton’s overcrowded trains mean she struggles to get to university three out of four days a week because she cannot get on.
Some days Christina, from Farnworth, has had to wait an hour before she can board a train.
She said: “The conductors are friendly and will bring the ramp out if there’s room, but if it’s full and people are in the wheelchair spot they can’t get me on the train.
“I catch my outgoing train to Deansgate, but can’t return by the same route because there are no conductors at Deansgate to put the ramp in place.
“I’ve tried to take a tram to Piccadilly then a train to Bolton, but if I’m not seen by a member of the station staff I cannot get off the train.
“I feel as though I am being treated as a second-class citizen and am beginning to dread going out if I have to use public transport.”
Christina, a former Mount St Joseph’s pupil, gets a bus to Bolton Station at 7.50am and refuses to let her constant pain stop her being independent.
She said: “I just want to be able to get to university and back on time. I can’t be the only wheelchair user who is affected like this.
“My mum drives, but my wheelchair doesn’t fit in her car so she can’t give me a lift.
“I’ve spoken to my tutors at uni who have said that I can claim taxi receipts back, but a return journey is £60 and I haven’t got that kind of money to pay for up front.
“It can be frustrating when people put obstacles in my way like this when all I want to do is be as independent as possible.”
Northern Rail bosses, which run the service Christina uses, stressed they fully participate in the Passenger Assist system, which lets disabled passengers book help at stations. It also allows them to reserve seats and wheelchair spaces where available.
A spokesman said: “Even if assistance has not been booked in advance, we will try to help disabled passengers whenever possible and with minimum delay.”