Written by Simply Emma, October 13, 2023
Being a wheelchair user, I find it more convenient and comfortable to travel shorter distances by train. Not only does it eliminate the hassle and stress of air travel, but it also means that I can stay in my power wheelchair throughout the entire journey, which adds to the ease of train travel.
So, if you’re considering travelling by train with Avanti West Coast, I hope you’ll find my review of wheelchair accessibility helpful. This includes information on amenities and services, passenger assistance, wheelchair space and companion seats, and the overall accessibility of Avanti trains.
Avanti West Coast – Glasgow Central to London Euston
I recently had the opportunity to travel in first class from Glasgow Central to London Euston on a Monday morning 10:38am Pendolino service. The return journey from London Euston to Glasgow Central Station took place on a Thursday afternoon at 15:30pm. Both journeys lasted four and a half hours, with several stops along the way, including Carlisle, Oxenholme Lake District, Lancaster, and Warrington.
Information on this route and an up-to-date Avanti West Coast Glasgow to London timetable can be viewed on their website.
So, keep reading to see what it was like to travel as a wheelchair user on an Avanti West Coast train! And the accessibility of Glasgow Central and London Euston stations for disabled passengers.
What is Avanti West Coast trains?
Avanti West Coast became the new operator of the West Coast Mainline in 2019, replacing Virgin Trains. The train service offers three different classes of seating: first class, standard premier (similar to first class but without complimentary catering), and standard.
There is one wheelchair space in standard coaches B and D, as well as first class coach J.
Avanti West Coast’s Accessibility Hub
Avanti West Coast has created a detailed online Accessibility Hub that provides information and resources for disabled passengers, including details on accessible facilities, assistance services, station accessibility, and travel tips. Avanti West Coast says it is committed to making travel inclusive and convenient for everyone.
‘Travel Companion’ Service by Avanti West Coast
Avanti West Coast has launched a new service called Travel Companion, which aims to provide immediate assistance to disabled customers during their journeys. The service is managed by knowledgeable and understanding members of Avanti West Coast’s social media team who specialise in accessibility.
Travel Companion enables disabled customers to communicate in real-time with a person who understands their needs, whether it’s help with a faulty lift, a timetable change, or assistance from a train manager while on board.
Customers can reach out for extra assistance by messaging Avanti West Coast Travel Companion on WhatsApp, and a team member will promptly respond to their messages and provide the necessary help tailored to their specific needs.
To experience this service, customers can message Avanti on WhatsApp at 07980037037 or by clicking on the link below.
My Wheelchair Accessible Train Travel Experience with Avanti West Coast
Once our tickets were booked, I received online tickets via email, which I could save in my wallet on my phone. This meant I was able to quickly and easily access our train tickets by showing my phone at any point throughout the journey when asked by Avanti train staff.
Booking Passenger Assist with Avanti West Coast
Disabled passengers requiring assistance at any stage of their train journey are advised to book Passenger Assist via one of the options below:
- Call Avanti West Coast Passenger Assist on 0345 528 0253 (press ‘option 3’). This line is open 24 hours a day, Monday through Sunday. Passenger Assist can also help book your train tickets.
- Fill out the Passenger Assist online form https://www.railhelp.co.uk/avantiwestcoast/passenger-assist
- Use the Passenger Assistance App – https://passengerassistance.com/
I opted to call Avanti West Coast Passenger Assist to book my assistance for both journeys as well as my seat reservations for myself and the three people I was travelling with.
The wheelchair and carer/companions seats are 1, 3, and 4, and we also had seat 2, which meant we were able to sit together as a group.
Booking Passenger Assist was quick and straightforward, and the customer service agent I spoke to on the phone was very helpful. They took my personal and journey details and asked for my wheelchair size and what assistance I required.
The agent then explained what would happen on the day of travel when I arrived at the station.
Glasgow Central Station Wheelchair Accessibility
I was advised to arrive at the Mobility Point desk at least twenty minutes before departure.
However, we ended up getting there an hour early due to our eagerness not to miss our train. Our plan was to spend some time in the First Class lounge and then use the accessible toilet before boarding the train.
We made our way to the Mobility Point desk to let the staff know that we had arrived. Since I had already booked Passenger Assist, they had all of my details and knew what kind of assistance I needed, specifically a wheelchair ramp to get onto the train.
Upon arriving at the Mobility Point desk, we noticed it was unstaffed. However, we pressed the call button, and a Network Rail customer service assistant arrived in a mobility cart. They loaded our luggage onto the cart and advised us to proceed to the train. At this point, we still had 50 minutes until our departure time, which seemed like a lot of time to be sitting on the train.
Personally, I had not even had the opportunity to use the toilet yet, which was my priority before boarding, as although there is an accessible toilet onboard, it is quite small, which would be difficult for me and my companion to manage.
Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed by the attitude of the Network Rail customer service assistant towards me when I explained that it was too early for us and that I needed to go to the toilet before boarding.
Changing Places Toilet at Glasgow Central Station
At Glasgow Central Station, there is now a Changing Places toilet. The facility includes an adult-sized changing bench, a ceiling track hoist, a height-adjustable washbasin, and a shower. You need a Radar Key to gain access, but the staff can open it for you if you don’t have your own key.
I was happy to see that this Changing Places toilet is here, as the last time I used this station, there was only a small, standard accessible toilet, which does not meet the needs of many disabled people.
Boarding Avanti West Coast Train as a Wheelchair User
The platform was announced, and we made our way to the ticket barrier. A friendly, helpful staff member from the Avanti West Coast team approached us and offered to escort us along the platform to the first class cabins at the back of the train.
This does mean that you have to walk/wheel the length of the platform, but there is a mobility cart for anyone who has difficulty walking. When we arrived at London Euston the first class cabins were at the front of the platform. The first class cabins are located in coaches J and K, with the wheelchair space available in coach J.
As we approached coach J, the Avanti West Coast agent passed us over to another Network Rail customer service assistant, who positioned the wheelchair ramp for me to board the train.
Wheelchair Space and Companion Seats on Avanti Trains
During the journey, I sat in the wheelchair space, seat J1. Allan and my nephew were seated across from me in seats J3 and J4, which can only be booked with the wheelchair space.
While we shared the same area, their seats had their own tables, whereas my table was height adjustable. Additionally, my mum sat in the neighboring seat, J2, allowing us to stay together for the entire trip.
I had access to an emergency call button next to me, and the area behind me was spacious. This made it simple for me to maneuver in and out of the wheelchair space.
The tables had plug sockets and USB charging points, as well as wireless charging outlets, ensuring that all our devices remained charged throughout the journey.
Our luggage was stored on a nearby rack, making it convenient for us to access our belongings whenever we needed them. The other passengers on the train were respectful and did not place their luggage behind me in the wheelchair space.
We took the newly refurbished cabins train to London and the older cabins train back to Glasgow. Although the cabins were different, they were essentially the same. The refurbished cabins had navy faux velvet seats with a white leather headrest, featuring the Avanti logo stitched into them.
The armrests on these seats lifted up, making it easy to get in and out of the seats. Additionally, the aisle seat, where Allan sat, had a table that flipped up, providing extra space. This feature could be beneficial for ambulant wheelchair users who need to transfer into a seat.
Avanti’s Onboard Accessible Toilet
Although I didn’t need to use it myself, I took some photos of the accessible toilet on the train. While it wasn’t very spacious, it appeared to be adequately sized for a wheelchair user, as long as they could manage in a tight space.
Food and Drink Service
For First Class passengers on an Avanti West Coast train, there are various complimentary food and drink options available depending on the duration and time of your journey.
When we boarded, we were offered tea, coffee, juice, or water. Each of us was given a menu to choose our breakfast options. Unfortunately, our first choice, the breakfast hash, was already sold out. Instead, we chose toast, smoked salmon, and scrambled eggs. For lunch, we ordered the cauliflower rice salad with a soy and ginger dressing.
Throughout the journey, the friendly staff regularly passed down the carriage with food and drinks. My nephew loved the Lily O’Briens marbled chocolate so much that the staff gave him extra.
There was also a regular bar service, and my mum enjoyed a few glasses of Forest Gin, which is a collaboration between Avanti and Forest Distillery in Macclesfield.
Every member of the Avanti team was welcoming and helpful, both onboard and at the stations, which made all the difference to the overall experience.
You can view the Avanti West Coast menu on their website.
Passenger Assistance for Disembarkment
We departed and arrived on schedule for both of our journeys. We were delighted to have a fast and smooth disembarkation process as the customer service assistants were there to greet us with the ramp at both London Euston and Glasgow Central Station. It was efficient and hassle-free, just as it should be. I believe the Avanti train manager called ahead to the station to ensure they were ready for us.
London Euston Station Wheelchair Accessibility
Upon our arrival at Euston station in London, we noticed how busy it was with lots of people rushing around, as you’d expect for most places in London. As we had been there before, we knew our way around. However, for those visiting for the first time, my recommendation is to turn left if you need to use the accessible toilets or go straight ahead to exit the station after leaving the platform.
If you’re entering Euston Station to catch a train, I suggest you immediately look for the signs for Mobility/Passenger Assistance, which are located on the left-hand side of the main entrance.
We experienced an emergency evacuation when we arrived at Euston Station for our return journey. Everyone had to leave the station, but we were allowed back inside after it was checked. Despite the chaos, the staff at the Passenger Assistance desk were able to check their system for my assistance request and quickly provided a staff member with a wheelchair ramp to help us board our train.
Changing Places Toilet at London Euston Station
At London Euston station, there is a Changing Places toilet available across from the existing toilets. For many disabled people, toilets onboard trains are unsuitable, making train travel inaccessible. However, by having Changing Places toilets at stations, the rail network becomes more open and travel becomes more accessible for everyone.
Like the Changing Places at Glasgow Central, this one was clean and spacious with a toilet, an adult-sized changing bench, a ceiling track hoist, and a height-adjustable washbasin.
Black Cabs at London Euston Station
At London Euston Station, there is a taxi rank and a Mobility assistance agent who helps disabled passengers requiring a black cab. Fortunately, all black cabs in London are wheelchair accessible, and with the help of the staff member, we were in the cab and on our way to the hotel within a few minutes.
First Class Avanti Train Station Lounges
If you have a first-class train ticket, you can enjoy some fantastic perks in the Avanti West Coast First Class lounge! They offer complimentary snacks and drinks as well as high-speed WiFi. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit the First Class lounge in Glasgow Central Station since it was closed when we arrived. And we also didn’t have enough time to go to the lounge at London Euston Station because of the evacuation.
Final Thoughts on Avanti West Coast
This was my first time travelling with Avanti West Coast and I had a great experience. From booking passenger assistance to boarding the train and the service onboard, everything was positive. The wheelchair space was comfortable, spacious, and conveniently located near the accessible toilet. Boarding and disembarking were quick and efficient, which was a major plus.
Although I didn’t need to use Avanti’s new Travel Companion service during this trip, I believe it will be beneficial for disabled passengers to communicate in real-time while travelling with Avanti West Coast. I have only one complaint, and that is the limited vegan options on the menu. There is only one option available, and unfortunately, it was sold out in the morning. This resulted in some members of my party being unable to find anything suitable to eat. Additionally, there were no kid-friendly options, which was a disappointment for my young nephew. Although he would have been over the moon if he could have eaten as much Lily O’Brien chocolate as his body weight!
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip from Glasgow to London and back with Avanti West Coast and I would definitely book with them again for future journeys.
Have you travelled with Avanti West Coast? What did you think of the wheelchair space and passenger assist? Please tell me about your experience in the comments below.
Thank you to Avanti West Coast for providing press tickets for the purpose of this review, but as always, all views and opinions are my own!