Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Disabled sailor Geoff Holt MBE barred from train

Geoff Holt
Image caption Geoff Holt sailed solo across the Atlantic in 2010

The first quadriplegic sailor to sail solo across the Atlantic has described his rage at being prevented from boarding an Isle of Wight train.

Geoff Holt said he was told by a guard his electric wheelchair was not allowed on board as it would damage the floor.

Mr Holt, who was later allowed to board, claims the guard implied he was a liar, and cut his leg with a ramp.

The Stagecoach Group said an employee had been suspended and a senior manager had apologised to Mr Holt.

British Transport Police have begun an investigation.

On his blog, Mr Holt, from Shedfield, Hampshire, wrote: "I can't recall the last time that I was so angry and upset I was physically shaking, emotion choking my voice, a sense of genuine rage.

"That was until I took the train from Ryde Pier to Ryde Esplanade on Saturday 31st March."

'Red mist descending'

Mr Holt, who completed his 2,700-mile (4,345km) journey in 2010, told how a guard, who identified himself only as "Guard 1003" initially refused to let him board the 4:45pm train back to Ryde Esplanade.

In his blog, Mr Holt wrote: "Why? To quote Guard 1003, pointing at my wheelchair: 'Those things aren't allowed on these trains, they will damage the floors'."

Mr Holt, who has been in a wheelchair since a swimming accident 27 years ago, continued: "Reminding myself this was 2012, not 1912, this was public transport and this was the year the Paralympics were coming to Britain, the red mist was descending."

Mr Holt claims the guard not only insinuated he was a liar when he told him he had made the same journey nine hours earlier but also dropped the disabled metal ramp on his leg and foot when he eventually relented and allowed him to board.

'Violated and dehumanised'

"And with that simple, easy manoeuvre which took him only 10 seconds, I was on the train. All the other passengers looked on in disbelief but, in typical British fashion, did nothing."

When the train arrived at Ryde Esplanade three minutes later, Mr Holt admits he swore at the guard because he felt "violated and dehumanised".

In his blog he continued: "He had publicly humiliated me, he had publicly degraded me and he had made me feel like a worthless piece of dirt... it was quite simply the most disgusting way to treat another human being, let alone a disabled one."

A Stagecoach Group spokesperson said: "We are absolutely horrified at the events Mr Holt has described.

"We welcome electric wheelchairs on our services and it is very important to us that all of our passengers feel welcome on our network.

"We are taking this matter very seriously and have already launched an investigation."

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