SCOTRAIL is urgently reviewing its Caledonian Sleeper booking policies after refusing a reservation from blind ski racer John Dickinson-Lilley and his guide dog because he did not give the required two days’ notice.
The sportsman was unable to book a berth between London and Aviemore for tonight when he phoned the train operator at 5pm yesterday.
However, the train operator apologised after Dickinson-Lilley highlighted his plight on the social media website Twitter, gaining the backing of hundreds of people including former First Minister Jack (now Lord) McConnell.
ScotRail’s sister firm First Great Western said there was no minimum booking period for passengers with guide dogs on its London-Penzance sleeper, if berths were available.
Dickinson-Lilley said: “I wonder how many ordinary blind people who may not have my confidence or professional background in campaigning would have reacted.
“I’d guess they simply wouldn’t have travelled and accepted ScotRail’s discriminatory policy.
“It appals me that just months after London 2012 there is a huge failure to understand that disabled people are ordinary people – we have last minute changes to plans, emergencies and quite frankly the right to travel whenever we like without having to book days in advance.
“I regularly get refused by taxi drivers, in shops and at restaurants simply because they fail to acknowledge or respect equality law.”
He earlier tweeted: “Been refused by ScotRail on 2mrw nights sleeper cause I have a guidedog! Supposed to be ski training with team in Aviemore.
“Told couldn’t travel w/out 48h notice as need book a cleaner!
“Unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.”
ScotRail said it was “urgently reviewing its procedures to speed up the preparation of sleeping berths after dogs have travelled in them”.
It has also apologised to Dickinson-Lilley and offered him and his dog a free berth tonight.
A ScotRail spokesman said: “We are genuinely sorry that we didn’t act more quickly on this.
“We have launched an urgent review into our current cleaning systems, with the aim of speeding up the preparation of Sleeper berths in future.”
Dickinson-Lilley is the UK’s only male blind ski racer and a member of the British Disabled Ski Team development squad, who is hoping to compete in the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Korea.
ScotRail said it permitted “assistance dogs” on the Sleeper and waived the cleaning charge that applied for other passengers who brought dogs on board.
It said it complied with all relevant legislation, including the Equality Act.