Bus firm apologises for turning away Hitchin disabled passenger, but then repeats snub

Jamie Wildman pictured at home

Jamie Wildman pictured at home - Credit: Archant

A spina bifida sufferer from Hitchin who received an apology from an embarrassed bus company over the way he was treated by one of their drivers has been turned away again.

Jamie Wildman was left feeling ‘humiliated and disgusted’ after a bus driver refused to let him board as he was a wheelchair user.

The 33-year-old had tried to get on the number 97 bus from Hermitage Road on his way to an appointment in Letchworth when the Arriva driver turned him away.

The company apologised in a letter after Jamie complained and the issue was highlighted in the Comet last month, recognising he had been upset and inconvenienced.

Arriva thanked him for highlighting the problem, promising that the manager of the company’s Stevenage depot would interview the driver.

The letter said: “At the very least he will be reminded of the standards of service and performance we expect from all of our employees. We may also monitor this driver’s performance in the coming weeks.”

But when Jamie, who lives in St John’s Road, tried to get on a number 97 last week to make a round trip between Hitchin and Letchworth he wasn’t allowed to get on for either trip.

Most Read

A fuming Jamie said: “I can’t believe it’s happened again. They may have said they were going to monitor this driver’s performance over the coming weeks but they clearly haven’t passed on the message.

“It’s gone beyond a joke. The situation is ridiculous.

“To have been left humiliated first time around was bad enough – but to have then received a letter from Arriva apologising for their behaviour before again denying me access is simply unacceptable. What good did the last apology letter do?

“I want someone from Arriva to meet me face-to-face and apologise this time – before coming to a bus stop with me in plain clothes to see if I can actually get on one of their buses without being humiliated all over again.

“I want to see if the message has got through to any of their other drivers.”

A spokesman for Arriva said: “We’d like to apologise again to Mr Wildman for the problems he had when trying to travel on our buses with his wheelchair last week.

“As we said before, the buses used on this service are normally wheelchair accessible but on occasion there will be the need to substitute the bus as a result of delays or breakdowns – sometimes resulting in inaccessible buses being sent out, rather than having to cancel the journey.

“We will follow this further report up with the depot – and make them aware of the additional problems Mr Wildman has experienced.”

Judi Billing, who represents Hitchin on both Herts County Council and North Herts District Council, said: “In this day and age, with the amount of great work which goes into raising public awareness and fighting for equality in terms of wheelchair users, I cannot believe this has happened again. It’s simply unacceptable.”

Debra Chand of spina bifida support charity Shine added: “It is so disappointing to hear, yet again, Jamie has been denied assistance when boarding a bus in Hitchin.

“What will it take for him to have the same access as anyone else?”