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Access issue with Brittany Ferries

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This is a problem which the ferry company keep promising has been resolved,

but every time we turn up for our next crossing it just happens again.

 

I currently split my time between my sons in the UK and our home in south west France so regularly travel with Brittany Ferries.

 

On 'Bretagne' there are two lifts with access from the car decks,

one is clearly marked on their 'accessible' guide for the ship,

the other isn't because it is actually dangerous for a wheelchair user as access involves a 90 degree turn from one narrow corridor to another even narrower corridor at the head of a staircase.

 

The second corridor is so narrow that I cannot wheel my chair myself and the only way to actually complete the turn is for part of the wheelchair to overhang the staircase, which is incredibly scary for me, the person pushing me and any spectators and is an accident waiting to happen.

 

Customer services ashore agree that wheelchair users should not be parked by this lift

(I have this in writing)

 

however the loading master doesn't agree and blithely ignores the risk because it's easier to park wheelchair users here.

 

On the last occasion I refused to get out of the car unless we were parked by the other lift and they did give in eventually,

 

however I am sick to death of arguing with them onboard (this is the first time we have won), complaining again and again,

getting more reassurances from customer services that it won't happen next time only to start from the beginning again every time.

 

There is unfortunately no reasonable alternative ferry we could use.

The only other service going to St Malo is Condor and even if a fastcat had better access

(it doesn't, it's a nightmare)

it takes forever to get across via the channel islands and we end up having to stay overnight in St Malo before continuing our journey.

 

Other Brittany Ferry services, e.g. to Caen,

would be an alternative,

but we've had similar issues boarding those ferries and the timing also often means an overnight stop (involves having to book two adjacent rooms to accomodate me and allow hubby to get some sleep, chances of doing this vary from little to none).

 

Ferries are not covered by the Equality Act.

Given that we need to continue using Brittany Ferries so don't want to alienate them completely,

 

any suggestions other than keep complaining?

I'm wondering if next time I should just not bother arguing,

park where they tell us and then insist one of their staff get me to the lift and experience for themselves how difficult it is.


RMW

"If you want my parking space, please take my disability" Common car park sign in France.

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Just write a letter to their UK head office explaining the problems you have and that you would like more assistance when you use their services. Ask them what further assistance they can provide. Perhaps you can contact their customer services a few days before travel and any special arrangements can be made.

 

Are there any EU laws that apply to ferry services ?


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Done this over and over again, had an email Friday confirming instructions had been passed to the loading officer and First Officer, but as always instructions ignored.


RMW

"If you want my parking space, please take my disability" Common car park sign in France.

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Do a video of your experience and post it online if necessary.

 

You could enquire with the EU Transport people, about what law/rules they apply to Ferry services.

 

See section 6 at the end of this document

 

http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN00601/SN00601.pdf


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Unfortunately your link doesn't work, but thank you for replying. It appears the only rules relating to ferries are about providing assistance when asked, they don't have to make access any easier or anything like that. Something we are exploring is the safety issue, though as we don't want to upset them too much we may have to tread carefully. Hubby is merchant marine himself and suggestions at the moment include 'accidentally' leaving his union card on display or casually draping his uniform jacket over the back seat with his 'pips' on display next time we travel - he easily outranks the loading officer, and in fact everyone else on board apart from the Captain.

 

They're now going back on what we were told before and saying they can't park us by the 'good' lift even though they did this time and suggesting we use a different route. If we have to we will, but I object to having to pay 3 times as much in motorway tolls and pay for hotel rooms just because the loading staff think it's too difficult to park us in a safe place on the best route for us. We're not changing our next crossing at this late date as we're most unlikely to be able to get a suitable cabin etc, so I think videoing the whole thing after insisting that the ferry staff get me from the car to the lift and back again is our next step, which I am apparently entitled to insist that they do. At least then if I do end up at the bottom of the stairs, it will definitely be their fault though I think that will be small comfort.


RMW

"If you want my parking space, please take my disability" Common car park sign in France.

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We could do with some help from you.

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Reached an impasse over this, ferry company won't back down and insist that as the ferry will never move whilst it's in dock, there's actually no risk of me accidentally falling down the stairs. They've also apparently carried out a trial with an empty wheelchair which they got around the corner without too much difficulty.

 

Quite apart from the obvious alternative that I/whoever is pushing me makes a mistake getting around that tight corner, anyone who has ever used or pushed a wheelchair knows that an empty one is completely different to one with an adult in and even my size 4 feet stick out beyond the front of the foot plates.

 

We're due to sail on this boat again in a couple of months, so hubby will be videoing the onboard staff hopefully not dropping me down the stairs.


RMW

"If you want my parking space, please take my disability" Common car park sign in France.

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Is there no another way around this. They park the car for you, as well as others with you and you can get on the ferry on a level platform. At the other end they drive the car off and park it where you can pick it up at the other end.


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Apparently not. The daft thing is that once onboard and in the 'adapted' area, this particular ferry beats most of the newer ones hands down as they've removed all the door sills etc, however I'm sure a lot of disabled people are so put off by access to the usual lift that they never explore further.


RMW

"If you want my parking space, please take my disability" Common car park sign in France.

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This issue has raised it's head again after almost exactly 12 months of trouble free crossings - or almost, anyway.

 

I've upgraded to a powered wheelchair which is physically incapable of getting to the troublesome lift, and until our last crossing at the weekend all I had to do was remind the booking staff, check that the information had been passed on to the check-in staff (it always has been) and then when boarding hubby waits in the approximate place we need to be parked until someone notices, argue a bit, wait for someone bilingual to arrive, explain the issue to them, end of problem. By coincidence, the last time we did this I did mention it to customer services as the arguing bit does get a bit tedious and they gave me a detailed explanation in French to show to the loading staff to hopefully speed things up. On top of that, to make it easier for the loading staff to identify precisely which vehicle they need to park by the accessible lift, we've acquired a bright green 'electric wheelchair' sticker to place directly below Brittany's usual wheelchair sticker.

 

Fast forward to last Sunday and yes, booking staff are aware, yes, check-in staff are aware. Wheelchair stickers go on and we queue with everyone else. As we're going up the ramp I comment to hubby that even though we've apparently sorted the issues out, boarding is still stressful. We drive round to where we usually stop and the loading staff appear to indicate that our position is fine and I am suitably amazed that the bright green sticker thing did such a good job of identifying us AND for once the loading staff seem to know where we must be parked.

 

How wrong I was - without going into too much detail, I was insulted by the loading crew and ended up with the car parked in an area totally inaccessible to me so that we would have to wait for everything else to be unloaded before hubby could drive all the way back round to the lift I could use to pick me up when we arrived. Unfortunately, we were too busy arguing to think about filming, and I suspect that if we had, we'd have been kicked off the boat completely.

 

Furious doesn't come close. I can't sue them for discrimination under the Equality Act, I'm sick to death of complaining and nothing changing so the only thing left is to vote with my feet and put up with the extra expense and journey time, unless someone has another idea?


RMW

"If you want my parking space, please take my disability" Common car park sign in France.

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We use Brittany ferries and in general no issue until our last trip from Caen to Portsmouth on the 8.30am ferry. Boarding no issue and we were escorted to our cabin. Leaving was a big problem. We knew that we were parked on deck 3 and took what we thought was the appropriate lift. On arrival at deck 3 we stepped out and the lift door closed behind us.

We then discovered that we were on the HGV side of the ferry and went to get the lift back up to the 5th level and that is when it all went wrong. The button for the life would not operate and we could not summon the lift. The alternative was stairs which are difficult for someone with mobility issues. As the ship had already docked and by this time the ramp had been lowered for vehicles to disembark we were concerned as our vehicle was in front and every one behind us would be stuck until we moved plus the fact that the HGVs were starting to move.

With the help of my wife I eventually made it up the stairs, but was totally exhausted by the effort. Thought I was going to have a heart attack! Eventually got to the vehicle and left. I then contacted Brittany ferries about the issue and they were quite dismissive. I then spoke with a supervisor and got no further with them except that they implied it was my fault for not taking the correct lift. The lifts are not marked to indicate whether they arrive in the car or HGV sections. It did not matter to them that we could not access the lift again due to the press button being broken!

BTW reallymadwoman get a dashcam fitted into the car and record the footage. Unfortunately in our case it would not have helped, but we do get the impression that if you are disabled, loading and onboard staff at Brittany ferries can be awkward.

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If you have a read of some of the reviews on Tripadvisor, practically every single one which mentions disability or wheelchair is a complaint, though to be fair we've had some excellent treatment on other ferries in the fleet, going so far as to park us by the lift I requested simply because it made it easier to get to our cabin.

 

At the moment, we use the St Malo crossing for our outward journey because we're on board by 8pm so can have dinner onboard and relax in the bar before bed, and we don't have to get up until 7 the next morning. We've then got all day to get to our destination at a relatively leisurely pace. The return journey is always from Caen (there isn't an overnight crossing from St Malo) but the time difference works in our favour that way, if we used that crossing on the way out we'd get a maximum of 5 hours sleep which is simply not enough, and if we use a daytime crossing we end up having to stay in an hotel in France to break the journey.

 

That said, I've changed our next outward crossing to the Poole-Cherbourg service, which though it's more convenient for us than Portsmouth, we don't usually use because the ferry leaves at 8.30 am which effectively means I have to be up by 4.30am at the latest. It also makes the journey in France 90 minutes longer, and since we don't arrive until 1.45pm we cannot do it in one day so the £30 we save on the crossing is more than made up for by paying for an hotel, and it's still going to be a very long day and it's not something I will be able to do regularly.

 

I asked Brittany to phone me to sort out our next crossing as you can't change disabled bookings online and I'm not phoning an 0871 number from France, they haven't bothered.


RMW

"If you want my parking space, please take my disability" Common car park sign in France.

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We like to do the Portsmouth St Malo crossing and then return 8.30am Caen Portsmouth as we have 3 dogs travelling with us. Not had an issue on St Malo crossing but Caen crossing they need to wake up.

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Finally had a response to my complaint, which I approached as being in breach of EU regs requiring them to carry disabled passengers because making my journey depend upon the outcome of an argument with boarding staff every time amounts to effectively preventing me from travelling on that route.

 

The response basically amounts to tough, but is written in such a way that it's obvious the author couldn't be bothered to read what I sent or even research how often we travel. I think that might amount to the definition of adding insult to injury.

 

I've actually disabled the send button on my email account in case I'm tempted to reply this evening because if I did, I'd be giving Brittany Ferrys the perfect excuse to refuse to carry me ever again.


RMW

"If you want my parking space, please take my disability" Common car park sign in France.

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Good move about the Send button, RMW. :D

 

 

HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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Count yourself as lucky to even get a response as Brittany Ferries likes to fob you off and treat people with disabilities the as if they have the plague.

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Count yourself as lucky to even get a response as Brittany Ferries likes to fob you off and treat people with disabilities the as if they have the plague.

 

This is why we have approached the issue as a breach of the EU regs - Brittany Ferries have to respond, if they don't resolve it I can take the complaint to ABTA and ultimately to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. As the issue has now been going on for over two years (our first complaint was June 2016!) I think we've demonstrated every possible effort to resolve it with the ferry company so I would be within my rights to escalate it immediately, however the more I thought about it last night, the more I realised the senior Customer Service person allegedly dealing with my complaint hadn't actually read any of the information I sent, only my tripadviser review so this morning I emailed to ask if he'd seen my email and, suprise surprise, he hadn't.

I've resent it, with enclosures which provide all the detail, and a heavy hint that he might want to review his response.


RMW

"If you want my parking space, please take my disability" Common car park sign in France.

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I don't know if this would be relevant to you, RMW. I think they should add ferry companies to the list. It's a good idea on the face of it.

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/aug/29/disabled-activists-launch-legal-fund-transportjustice-to-take-transport-companies-to-court

 

 

HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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Thanks for that, HB, I've contacted them about this issue and also mentioned the lack of additional support for disabled airline passengers where their flight is delayed or cancelled.

 

I assume it's ok to post a link to the organisation campaigning https://www.disabilityjustice.org.uk

Edited by honeybee13

RMW

"If you want my parking space, please take my disability" Common car park sign in France.

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I would have thought so, but I'll flag it for the site team just in case. :)

 

 

HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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It isn’t my area, so I’ve asked a friend (who works with a regional group acting as “a voice of accessible transport users”).

I’ve quoted (verbatim, with their permission) their reply, below.

So it's a nightmare since it's a french company operating on the seas. They are apparently trying but just failing. There's an organisation called Shareaction which challenges companies through their governance procedures. I've had success with them in the past. They've seen the story and are interested. Are you a member of the forum? If so point them at Shareaction.

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It isn’t my area, so I’ve asked a friend (who works with a regional group acting as “a voice of accessible transport users”).

I’ve quoted (verbatim, with their permission) their reply, below.

 

Thanks for this, I've emailed them. Having had a look at their website, I don't think they'll be able to help in the short term, but it's worth a try.

 

I've just booked our next batch of crossings and the problem ship must be going for repairs or something as there's a replacement on that route for the early part of next year so we've actually got until May to find a solution.


RMW

"If you want my parking space, please take my disability" Common car park sign in France.

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Final response from Brittany Ferries (late on Friday afternoon !) amounts to ......... tough.

 

Despite providing them with all the dimensions of my chair, including the turning circle, they insist that it will go around the corners = you're lying when you say it wont plus 'you need to tell us when you book etc....' which is hugely patronising.

 

Furious. Anyone know someone in the press who might be interested given that access to public transport is such a big thing at the moment?


RMW

"If you want my parking space, please take my disability" Common car park sign in France.

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That's really disappointing, RMW.

 

 

Have you tried BBC Radio4 You and Yours or maybe Watchdog?

 

 

HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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