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Paralympian Sophie Christiansen stuck on SWR train

Sophie Christiansen Image copyright Sophie Christiansen
Image caption Sophie Christiansen said current systems make her feel she constantly has to rely on someone to get around

A gold medal winning Paralympian was left in tears after she became stuck on a train when there was no guard to help her off.

Wheelchair user Sophie Christiansen, who has cerebral palsy, tweeted a video of her ordeal on her London to Godalming journey.

The footage shows a passenger holding the train doors open for the dressage rider until an exit ramp is provided.

South Western Railway (SWR) said it had apologised to Ms Christiansen.

The 31-year-old from Ascot said she was told SWR staff were aware she was travelling on the service but when she arrived at her stop there was no-one waiting with a ramp.

"It's always the general public helping me; I don't know what I'd do without them," she said.

"Without the help I probably would've ended up in Portsmouth at the end of the line because there is no real way for me to block the door to stop the train from moving."

Ms Christiansen said she "went home and cried" because of the repeated difficulties she faces over accessibility on trains.

Image copyright Sophie Christiansen
Image caption The OBE dressage rider is an eight-time Paralympic gold medallist

She said she was stranded "one in 10 times" and called on the government to lobby rail companies to improve disabled access.

Despite previously speaking to SWR's inclusion manager about introducing automated ramps to make travelling for disabled people smoother, Ms Christiansen claims manual ones are still in place.

"I literally don't know what it will take for the rail in this country to make the service more accessible," she said.

"There should be a different system to allow me to be independent".

Image copyright Sophie Christiansen
Image caption The 31-year-old dressage rider wants automated ramps to make travelling smoother

Andy Masters, head of services at disabled rights charity Back Up, said stories like Sophie's were "all too common".

He said wheelchair users routinely needed to consider problems over access at stations and whether they would manage to find a guard to get them on and off trains.

"An easy journey is not a given, but being able to use public transport is essential to most people's daily lives.

"It allows us to go to work, socialise and get to where we need to be. Accessible stations allow disabled people to live the lives they want, just like everyone else.''

SWR said it was investigating the incident "as a priority" and it was reviewing the process "to make sure this doesn't happen again".

Rail Delivery Group, which represents UK train operators, said it was working to bring "thousands of new, more accessible carriages on track and speeding up the process for passengers booking assistance."

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