A dying woman was in tears when the bus company that allowed her to ride into town refused to take her home again three hours later.
Shop worker Diane Flood (50) has been off sick with back pain for five weeks – and two weeks ago received the bombshell news that she is terminally ill with cancer of the spine.
At that point I was crying and my daughter was getting upset because she knew I was upset.Cancer patient Diane Flood
The mum-of-three quit driving because she doesn’t want to pose a risk to anyone else, but thought Norfolk Green’s buses would be a link to the outside world from her home in Whaplode.
Her father-in-law lent Diane a mobility scooter and she used that to catch a bus with her daughter, Samantha (17), to Spalding just after 11am on Thursday.
They bought return tickets.
But, when they finished their shopping and went back to the bus station at around 2pm, the bus driver refused to let Diane on – saying manually-propelled wheelchairs were allowed in a specially reserved space on the bus but not mobility scooters.
“I said I could be more disabled than somebody that’s sitting in a wheelchair,” said Diane. “At that point I was crying and my daughter was getting upset because she knew I was upset.”
Diane reluctantly explained the nature of her illness and the driver left the cab, spoke to his manager and then told her the company was obliged to take her home after bringing her into town.
“I said ‘right, thank you, fair enough,” said Diane.”But then he said ‘if someone gets on between here and Whaplode in a wheelchair, you will have to get off’. I was that upset I just told him to get stuffed.”
Diane phoned Norfolk Green and was told she could take a taxi home and send them the bill, but she didn’t have enough cash with her and ended up calling her husband, Gerald, who collected them in a car.
She said the second driver had refused to take her back to Whaplode because he feared the small mobility scooter, which folds up to go in a car, could tip over on the journey.
Diane, who works at Long Sutton Co-op, has accepted Norfolk Green’s offer to visit her and assess the scooter’s safety on its vehicles.
Company general manager Richard Pengelly says spaces are reserved on buses for standard-sized wheelchairs – manual or electric – but a small mobility scooter could tip with the risk of the rider being injured.
He said: “Safety is a paramount thing for us. We have got to make sure that disabled passengers travel safely.”
Mr Pengelly said the company was not aware Mrs Flood was without sufficient cash for the taxi fare and would have provided the money had they been told.
He said the company has two types of bus and the scooter could be deemed safe on one and not the other.
Mr Pengelly said Stagecoach (Norfolk Green’s owners) has a comprehensive database of wheelchairs that it can carry safely and he feels it is reasonable for people to check before they travel.
There’s also a disability helpline on the company website.
The company assesses wheelchair safety for bus travel at customers’ homes – taking out one or two buses – and that’s done sympathetically with no other passengers around.