THE lack of mobility scooter friendly trains in Greater Manchester could dash a teenager's hopes of going to university and developing independence.

Alana Smith, aged 19, says she has been told that a number of stations are not suitable for mobility scooters.

The teenager from Kearsley had previously been told she wasn’t able to use her scooter on Northern’s trains, despite having had no issues using the trains for the previous two years.

She has since been given the permit for her scooter to be used on Northern Trains, but her issues using the rail service continue.

Speaking to The Bolton News, her mother, Karen Smith, 56, said: “When we got the permit sticker through the post, there was a leaflet with it outlining all the stations Alana can’t go to.

“Importantly, she can’t go to Manchester Oxford Road, Salford Crescent and Salford Central, ones which we use regularly for her appointments.”

The Bolton News: The leaflet Alana and Karen were presented with when the permit came in the post.The leaflet Alana and Karen were presented with when the permit came in the post.

Due to her disabilities, Alana has had to go to appointments at seven different hospitals around Greater Manchester, some of which need to be travelled to by train.

Karen said: “The majority of Alana’s appointments are at Manchester Royal Infirmary, which she needs to get off at Oxford Road for.

“She’s used Oxford Road for the last two years with no issues, so why it’s being shown as not scooter friendly now we don’t know.”

This development will also affect where Alana can go to university.

The Bolton News: Alana had previously been told her scooter wasn't fit for travel on Northern's trains.Alana had previously been told her scooter wasn't fit for travel on Northern's trains.

Karen added: “She’s a very bright girl, the next step would have been university.

“We’d have wanted her to be somewhere local, but University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan are accessed by Oxford Road, and University of Salford is accessed by Salford Crescent, so she couldn’t go to any of those.

“She waited a year to go to university, but now that she can do it we get this.”

The leaflet from Northern details which stations are ‘scooter friendly’ and which aren’t.

Local stations such as Bolton, Moses Gate, Farnworth, Blackrod, Horwich Parkway, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria, among others, were detailed as scooter friendly.

However, important local stations to Alana are listed as not scooter friendly, such as Manchester Oxford Road, Salford Crescent and Salford Central, as well as other local stations such as Clifton, Kearsley, Deansgate, Lostock, as well as numerous stations on the Manchester to Liverpool line.

Karen also highlighted the oddity of which stations were deemed scooter friendly and which weren’t.

She said: “You can get off with a scooter at Hebden Bridge, which is a tiny station, but you can’t at Manchester Oxford Road, which is massive?

“There wasn’t a single mention of this until after we got the permit.”

Alana highlighted her disappointment. She added: “I was so excited for my independence.”

Speaking to The Bolton News, Michelle Cardno, disability benefits lawyer and founder of Tottington-based disability advocacy group Fightback, criticised Northern over this issue.

She said: “It sounds like Northern are failing to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. They are unfairly disadvantaged compared to able bodied passengers.”

Michelle told us the story of disabled Fightback volunteer Nicky Burke, who would commute from South Manchester to Tottington regularly.

She said: “Nicky would travel from Stockport to Tottington to volunteer for us. Some days it would take her over two hours to get there, or she wouldn’t even manage that.

“She’d have to check a website to see if the lifts at the stations she was using were functional but would then arrive to find them closed after it had said they were open and have to turn back.”

Michelle added: “This is just another example of reasonable adjustments not being made for disabled people.”

Chris Jackson, regional director at Northern said: “Salford Crescent and Manchester Oxford Road are not considered scooter-friendly stations due to a number of factors, which we assess alongside our safety team, and include stepping distance, platform width and accessibility of the station.

“This has been the case since the beginning of our mobility scooter permit scheme in October 2020. Prior to this mobility scooters were unfortunately not able to be used across the Northern network.

“If it is safe to do so, our conductors will use access ramps to help customers with mobility issues on and off the train but we do ask anyone using a mobility scooter to use our designated scooter-friendly stations if they can.

“We are committed to giving people with additional mobility needs the confidence to travel by rail and we want to support our customers whenever they need it.

“The mobility scooter scheme is an example of this commitment and we’ll be looking to deliver improved accessibility across our network as we roll out similar improvements at other stations in the future.”