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4th-Oct-2015 11:42 am - Expressing myself - Salt lyrics
Well it's been forever since I posted my own lyrics online but I figured now was as good a time as any. Gf visited yesterday and well, feeling are mixed right now but I wanted to express myself and rather than shouting (not my favourite) I thought writing was the best way. See what you think. It's incomplete, still need to work out the middle part and then put some guitar chords to it. So here goes.

11:25 04/10/2015

Sung partly to tune of 'I will be' by Avril Lavigne

You said you loved, you said you cared
You said you'd take this anywhere
So tell me why
This seemed to die

The curtain rose, the picture's clear
The mist of love has disappeared
What does this mean?
You broke my dream

I feel the salt, I feel the crust
The phone screen's damp, the pillow's wringing
All I feel my eyes are stinging
I understand depression, I'm aware of all your woes
I've patience and compassion, but there's a limit to this dose

You snapped, you swore, you harangued, you glared
No confidence, I stood so scared
So tell me why
I start to cry

A darker side, the deck has turned
The cards have flipped, the odds have spurned

I feel the salt, I feel the crust
The phone screen's damp, the pillow's wringing
All I feel my eyes are stinging
I understand depression, I'm aware of all your woes
I've patience and compassion, but there's a limit to this dose
31st-Mar-2015 09:00 pm - ScotRail - Railing into a new era
It is a very exciting changing of the guard after 11 years of First Group running both the ScotRail franchise in Scotland and including the iconic Caledonian Sleeper service that links major cities in Scotland to London. From tonight, the Australian company Cerco will take over the Caledonian Sleeper operations as a separate franchise, with the Dutch firm Abellio running ScotRail and the remainder of train services in Scotland.

This is exciting news for rail passengers in Scotland as both operators have outlined innovative plans for how to improve both the quality and cost effectiveness of the services delivered to customers. Cerco have outlined plans for new trains that feature multiple classes of travel including those that offer reclining beds and those with end-suite facilities. They have also increased the range of breakfast options available and given customers the ability to reserve space in the lounge car for dinner prior to travel. Abellio on the other hand have also laid out plans for new rolling stock, but also want to make ticketing more affordable; something that has been at the heart of many complaints to first Group for a long time, despite the increasing number of passengers using the railway. For example, a day return to Edinburgh can cost as much as £60 from Aberdeen if purchased on the day of travel, something that is frankly ridiculous and probably explains the number of trains operating with reduced load factors. Abellio have announced in the press that they plan to introduce minimum ticket prices of £5 for intercity journeys, as well as more competitive travel options for people who are unemployed or on lower incomes. There are also rumours that they will make improvements to some existing stations by renting out retail space, something which I personally don’t think will be a great step forward for accessibility but which will no doubt see high demand from retailers wanting to attract the travelling market.

Talking of accessibility, one major commitment from Abellio is to reduce the notice period for assisted travel bookings to as low as one hour by 2016-2017. This will dramatically improve the ability of disabled travellers to travel independently, especially in the morning on the day of travel without the need to pre-book assistance the night before, especially as plans may change depending on factors such as the weather, health etc. much of this will be facilitated by new IT systems that will see staff carry new handheld PDA devices giving them better access to the assisted travel databases, passenger records and a new ‘positive confirmation’ upstream/downstream assistance corridor. The latter will require staff to actively confirm that they have noted the passenger’s next journey leg and have completed that part of their assistance request.

I’m hoping to have my first experience with both operators in April and whereas I don’t expect to see major change right away (a lot of which will only come into play when the new rolling stock is ready for rollout in 2017-2018), I would hope to see some signs of change from the outset, particularly for pricing of on-board refreshments and station facilities. I have grown to love train travel since I started travelling independently in 2011, and I hope this will only get better with the new players on the block. All aboard!

After much anticipation I finally attended the Pain Management Clinic at its new home at the new Aberdeen Community and Health Village. I say with much anticipation as I was desperate to see someone in the know after the know down I received following notice that the stellate ganglion block surgery I was almost promised at my last appointment would not take place as they did not think it appropriate for me.

Finding the place as a chore to start with as the building was apparently not signposted according to my drive. On arrival, I met with the usual initial reluctance from the man at reception when I asked if he could guide me to the clinic – of course he wasn’t allowed to leave his post. He finally did help though when I asserted that I had never been to the building before and therefore had no way to get myself there independently.

When I first attended the clinic I was asked if I wanted to help with research into the effectiveness of the support offered, something to which I agreed as I am more than willing to do anything reasonable to help if it results in better treatments or preventative measures that may help both myself and other people. I therefore complete a survey on each visit to the clinic, rating my pain and its impact on my life on a scale of 1 to 10. Today’s pain was rated at a 7 with the maximum impact over the last week at 10. I rated the overall impact of pain on my life at 6.

At long last I met Professor Chambers, whom I should have seen since the outset. I unfortunately did not think much of him as he was quite short and a little pedantic and almost condescending. He asked how I was and then mentioned that they were not able to do anything significant to help me as they did not know what my pain was. They know it is nerve pain but do not anything more specific as pain is intangible and therefore cannot be seen or measured. He said that clearly the primary medication I am on at the moment (Pregabilin) is not helping much and as I have reached the maximum dosage I can safely take it is time to try an alternative. He said that this may work or may not, and that it was essentially a case of trial and error.

I received a long spiel about how pain is meant to happen and how it is a function of the human body engrained into our genetics long ago. It is used as a defensive mechanism to ward off continued attack and to alert the person to danger. He said however that in my case the pain is not fulfilling its purpose and is therefore performing an unwanted function. This all sounds very obvious and in my view was unnecessary, as far from questioning why the pain is there I simply wanted to know what can be done to stop it. On that point I was told that they cannot stop the pain but only the perception of pain, and that this would vary based on what the mind interprets. I mentioned my alarm at the increase in painkillers and even told him about the app I use on my phone (Med Helper) that allows me to track my painkiller intake (to which he didn’t show much interest) and he said that it was not a problem as long as I am not abusing these drugs. I did admit that I do sometime take more than the stated dose and do not wait for the full time to elapse before taking another, simply as I want to be free from pain to allow me to do the things I want to do. I told him I am buying over the counter painkillers and asked if he could advise if it would be possible to have these given on prescription to ease the financial impact on me, particularly as I want to use weaker painkillers where possible to avoid increased codeine intake. He said that this was between my doctor and I, which I thought was far from helpful given that this was a Pain Management Clinic appointment after all.

The result of the appointment is that I am really no further forward in improving my quality of life or getting to the root of the Raynaud’s in my fingers, although I guess I know the answer to that now, which is nothing. I’m very concerned that when I do change to the new medication, pain levels may go up dramatically as it takes up to six weeks for new medications to take effect, and that this may drastically affect my ability to work, live a social life and also my relationship with my girlfriend. I know I’m not the most friendly person to be around when I’m in pain and I also hate being someone who seems to be always groaning about it, particularly as I know there are people that are significantly worse off, but I guess I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.

  Today I attended a conference in Glasgow hosted by Inclusion Scotland titled 'Powers for a Purpose'. The conference was open to people with a variety of disabilities although I was the only person representing the sight loss community who stayed for the entire event. The aim of the conference was to determine a list of powers that could be devolved to the Scottish Parliament as part of the aftermath following the 'no' vote in the independence referendum on 18 September 2014. The Smith Commission are currently looking into which powers should be devolved and Inclusion Scotland felt that disabled people should have a say in which of these would best provide maximum opportunities for and improve the lives of the disabled community within Scotland.

After an uneventful train journey (during which I slept in order to catch up on sleep lost given the early 5:00 start) I finally made it to City Hall in Glasgow although not without experiencing a very grumpy and less than helpful taxi driver who probably shouldn't have got out of bed in the first place; I don't think I ask a lot in terms of help as a person with sight loss, but anyone would have thought my asking him to guide me to the front door of the building was akin to asking him to take blood out of a stone! I was approximately one hour early and hence the entrance point noted on the conference invite was closed thus necessitating a trek round to the other side. Nevertheless, I was eventually assisted by a very helpful security person and able to get myself settled in, followed by the customary coffee and biscuits before the event started at 11:00.

After several speeches stressing the importance of not missing this opportunity to have appropriate powers devolved to the Scottish government, the day was split into two parts. We were seated at a round table and spent the morning discussing which powers would be in the best interest of disabled people and the afternoon discussing which would be appropriate for devolution to the Scottish Parliament. Notes were taken and these will be fed back to the Smith Commission in a report by Inclusion Scotland later this month, with a concrete decision by the commission expected in late January 2015. I was joined at my table for part of the day by a fellow visually impaired person who also sits on the RNIB Scotland Committee, which was somewhat of a relief as at least I knew someone there and was able to kill time in discussion prior to the start of the event. The others are my table included three people with a learning disability, a convener from Inclusion Scotland and a member of staff who assisted me for the duration of the event. The discussions were lively and made the event considerably more interesting than initially apparent from the invite and agenda. Lunch was the usual sandwiches and roles and whereas nothing special did as intended.

At the risk of being overly modest the result of all the discussions can best be summarised by my closing comments which were applauded at the end of the day; we need taxation and borrowing powers to ensure that the state has sufficient assets to provide much-needed services for everyone and especially disabled people. Welfare powers are required so that disabled people have access to the benefits they need to live productive and independent lives. Powers to control and innovate access to transport will give disabled people the opportunities and support to travel in order to access services and achieve their aspirations. Given that many disabled people also have additional medical issues, we need a health service which can support these in a timely, efficient and reliable manner. Finally, the Scottish Parliament requires the authority to continue managing educational provision so that disabled people have the opportunity to access learning and a pathway to gainful employment thus reducing the welfare burden on the state. There are of course other necessary powers that are required, but I, and the majority of people who attended this event, feel that this at least provides a foundation upon which Parliament can build to try and provide a better future free from the constraints that a 'one size fits all' mentality offers which has prevailed through administration from Westminster.

The event was reasonably well attended with approximately 15-20 people present, and I'm definitely pleased that I chose to become involved, despite the early start and long travel time. I have also become a member of Inclusion Scotland having sent back the completed application form at the time of registration. I suppose my only disappointment is that there was a less than equal representation across the disability spectrum, notably sight and hearing loss. Then again, perhaps these will be better represented at a second running of the event, which takes place in Inverness on Friday, 21 November 2014.

The last RNIB Member Forum of 2014 took place at the Teacher building in Glasgow. Whoever set the date for this forum must have made a slipup as it coincided with Remembrance Day, which was marked by a two-minute silence at 11:00. Turnout was high with 79 attendees although the figure is lower when volunteers and staff are factored out.

It was an early start for me as I left home at 05:45 in order to arrive in Glasgow in time for the start of the forum at 10:00. There then followed a fundraising update including details of the Glow-run, a sponsor event whereby participants ran around a 3 km track whilst having water infused with ultraviolet dye prayed at them. The dye showed up as different colours when viewed under the appropriate lighting. I had considered participating in this event although given the issues with my feet I felt it would be improbable that I would manage the 3 km run in one stretch. Perhaps an event could be held whereby people could participate whilst riding on a treadmill?

After the imposed two minute silence we moved into our breakout sessions; one featuring memorabilia from World War I brought in by one of my fellow member representatives and one to do with accessible reading and the RNIB Talking Book Service, presented by David Brown, a member of staff from RNIB who did not exactly impress me much. Although there were only six participants in the breakout session, he seemed incapable of controlling the group and there were often times when people were speaking amongst themselves whilst he was attempting to present. Some members had never seen this type of technology before and were therefore introduced to items such as USB sticks for the first time. David then moved onto talking about the RNIB Overdrive service, the new digital talking book service launched by RNIB earlier this year, which allows online streaming of audiobooks on demand in addition to the option to download books to a portable device. When I asked about the option to synchronise bookmarks between PC and other devices, he rather dismissively replied that he did not know, something, which I felt, was extremely unprofessional particularly in front of new members. I also asked about the option to switch over to Overdrive immediately, something, which I was advised was not possible at the Techshare conference due to problems with the RNIB billing systems and the fact that my subscription is paid by my local authority. David responded that this was not so, and that I should contact the membership team for further information. At this point, I feel I must make known my personal feelings regarding this latter comment. Whereas it is indeed simpler for members to have only one contact number to reach RNIB, the fact that it is not possible to be directly rooted to a person with the relevant level of expertise to answer a members query is a downside, often leading to a person from the membership team having to call the member back later, or in many cases (as highlighted by members during our member teleconference) not at all. As efficient customer service is often the ‘make or break’ factor that determines whether a customer will continue to pay for products or services, this is far from an ideal situation.

The breakout sessions then reconvened together for a presentation from Visibility on the products and services they offer to blind and partially sighted people in the Glasgow area. We then had lunch, which was a rather excellent mix of soup and sandwiches, after which member representatives provided feedback to members on the UK Member Forum we attended in July as well as the latest information on campaigns etc. I was able to successfully deliver my portion of the feedback from notes email to me and accessed on my Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro. After this, we once again moved into groups to discuss ways on which RNIB can increase membership, as well as how engagement can be improved within member forums. Some useful feedback was collected including suggestions for holding more local events and increasing the number of teleconferences through which members can participate in discussion amongst themselves and with RNIB personnel.

After coming together once again, we heard from two participants who were members of the Batten relay for the recent Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow. Although the actual time spent participating in the relay was relatively short, it was nevertheless exciting to hear of their experience and particularly the atmosphere present at the time. The process sound so simple when viewed in print but is completely different in actuality. Lastly, we had a campaigns update from James Adams, the RNIB Scotland Campaigns Officer although unfortunately I inadvertently stole most of his thunder by covering much of what he said during my feedback to members earlier in the day. He therefore took the opportunity to collect information from members on how they found procedures during the recent independence referendum voting, particularly use of the accessible template for election papers and assistance from personnel at polling stations, all for feedback to the electoral Commission. He also took comments about the summary of the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigns which were sent out by RNIB prior to the election, something which was praised by all.

The forum finally concluded at 16:00 although due to a subsequent meeting it was nearly 21:00 by the time I got home. It was a tiring day overall but nevertheless informative. The next RNIB Scotland member forum is scheduled for Tuesday 03 March 2015 at the Discovery Point in Dundee.

I attended the North East Sensory Services User Forum at their John Street premises in Aberdeen.  The event was well attended with approximately 20 people present including staff and a sign language interpreter.  After the standard items on the agenda including a staffing update, call for new people to join the 'Song & sign choir' and visits to the theatre and art gallery which take place on Saturday afternoons, the main highlights were transport and a plug for the PanicGuard app for smartphones.

North East Sensory Services continue to engage with First Bus Aberdeen to implement an action plan strategy for continuous, feedback-based driver training.  We were also advised that the TVs installed on the Platinum buses have now been removed as they were deemed to be unsuitable due to the low volume and news being out of date.  Several issues relating to the design of buses were raised by forum members and it was agreed that an attempt should be made to be part of the consultation process when considering the design of new buses.  Finally, we were warned that newer First buses have extended reach wing mirrors mounted at head height for people standing on pavements at bus stops.  There is a possibility that if the buzz is approaching a bus stop from a different lane this could pose a safety risk and passengers intending to board buses should therefore take a step back from the edge of the pavement until the bus has completely stopped at the bus stop.  Related to this was news that from now on, all buses will, as a result of driver training, stop at their allotted stop, even if this means that the bus is delayed on approach due to traffic already at the bus stop.  This would help to resolve the issue of buses collecting passengers at points before there are a lot of bus stop and then moving on, leaving blind or partially sighted passengers waiting for a bus that had already arrived and departed.

The PanicGuard app for smartphones was promoted.  This app acts as an emergency distress alarm by alerting specified emergency contacts, the police and other agencies when the phone is shaken at a time when the person feels vulnerable or is in distress.  The act also allows for emergency contacts to be notified of a particular journey that the person is making or if they are due to meet someone for a scheduled time.  If they deviate from this criteria an alarm can be raised.  The app uses the smartphones GPS to provide the present location to emergency contacts and services via email, SMS or through linked social network accounts.  I tested the initial setup of the app on my android smartphone and my only criticism is that it could be more accessible by not directing the user away from the app to the manufacturers website for registration.  Also, there does not appear to be an option to set how hard the phone must be shaken before an alarm is raised.  This may be important if, for example, the phone shakes whilst the person is walking and to avoid accidental alerts.  I have not been able to test the alarm capabilities as I am unsure as to whether shaking the phone will immediately trigger an alert and I naturally do not want to impose unnecessarily upon emergency services who may be dealing with actual incidents.

Given the above the forum was interesting and definitely informative.  An issue was raised about the cafe and whether or not users can bring their own food, and it was confirmed that this is not acceptable.  The high cost of food served at the cafe will also raised however we were told that these prices reflect the market rate.  I personally disagree with this especially as the outfit is known as a cafe, but apparently market research was conducted amongst clients who use the cafe and the food served is to their liking.  I think I may have to restrict how often I use the cafe even though it is generally only once a week as the bill taken over an overall monthly accounting is becoming untenable.

Finally we were presented with an overview of the 'see hear' multisensory strategy, something which I have heard before given my engagement with RNIB.  Nevertheless it was an interesting refresher and probably one of the best layman terms descriptions of the strategy that I have ever heard.

The forum lasted considerably longer than usual but eventually finished after two hours 20 minutes.  The next meeting will take place on 21 January 2015.North East Sensory Services, Aberdeen, sight loss, visual impairment, forum, news, See Hear, First Bus, PanicGuard,

What a way to start the week, and especially when everything has been looking so positive as of late.  Today was a major disappointment though as I will explain below.

When I last visited the pain management clinic on 16 September, we agreed that we had gone as far as possible with medication and that surgical intervention was now warranted.  All that was necessary was for the head consultant to give final approval for the procedure to go ahead, and I expected to hear about this within a week or so.  After not hearing anything, I phoned the clinic last week and finally received a call from the receptionist this morning.  She said that a letter was due to be sent out, however I ask if she could read it to me; probably a mistake when I was out and about as the news was anything but positive.

Apparently my case was discussed at their most recent multidisciplinary team meeting and it was agreed that they were unable to offer any pain intervention at this time and that I should continue with analgesics as well as working to avoid any mitigating factors which I have identified myself.  In plain English, this means that they won't do anything to help me at this time and I should continue with oral painkillers as well as keep away from anything that increases or stimulates the reynauds pain in my fingers.  This is a major blow as since September I have been building up my hopes for surgical intervention within the next few months and an end to the sometimes tear inducing pain in my fingers that have had a significant impact on my social and working life as well as my general well-being over the last six years.  What is even more concerning is that no reason has been given for the almost complete U-turn from the implied position in September.  I can understand if they have suddenly found some medical reason as to why they cannot proceed or if the risks significantly outweigh the potential benefits, but the other possibility is that financially they simply cannot afford to treat me.  This in itself is odd as they will almost inevitably be an increased cost to the NHS of prescription painkillers and appointment time particularly as the condition in my fingers is surely going to worsen.  This does not take account of the emotional impact that is likely, including possible depression as the pain takes a mental toll on me and stops me from doing the things which I want to do.  It is almost as good as my kidneys signing on the dotted line saying that they will pack in at some point in the future and take my liver along with them just for the ride.

I also cannot understand their decision as the entire ethos of the pain management clinic seems to be to get people off prescription painkillers and back to leading as active a life is possible without medical intervention.   I feel as though the metaphorical rug has been pulled from under my feet, like a marathon runner who has reached the finishing post only to be told that the race has just started.  I am not one to dwell on the negative side of life but at present the thought of yet another cold winter dragging on for months on end actually terrifies me.  There are only a few times in life that I have actually felt myself as depressed but at the moment it is difficult to see how anything can go uphill from here.  The only good thing to happen is that I have an appointment booked in for 3 February 2015 to see Professor Chambers, the head consultant who would have made the decision about my case.  Actually I should have been seeing him all along but each time I have visited the clinic so far he has been unavailable.  I am keeping everything crossed that this will not happen again and that I can actually get a reasonable outcome from this appointment that sheds some light at the end of the ever darkening tunnel.  For now, it looks as though the mobile chemist that has taken up residence in my backpack is here to stay.

24th-Oct-2014 08:09 pm - Roots and yet more roots
It was time for the second part of my root canal treatment at Portlethin Dental Care. After first checking that the temporary filling was still in place and finding that sound, Mark, the dentist with whom I am registered drilled ou t the filling, washed and dried the tooth and then inserted the new filling which have been cut to specific measurements determined at my last appointment. The procedure was done under local anaesthetic and was completely painless now that the nerve has been completely killed off. There is not much else to say about what happened other than a lot of time was spent washing and drying to make sure that all remnants of any previous debris was completely removed. The one thing I found most fascinating was the amount of pressure teeth are able to tolerate; Mark applied direct pressure to the filling to compacted as much as possible to ensure that it would stay in place over time and I was able to feel the pressure right at the top of my mouth. I was worried in case the tooth would fracture more than it has already and that the whole procedure would be for naught, but this didn't happen and after 25 minutes I was ready to go. I was advised that the filling would take approximately 3 hours to set to the point where I was able to eat anything and would be completely hard in three days. I'm to go back next week for the final part of the procedure and to have two other fillings and a general polish and clean. Only then will I receive the final bill as well as any concession I'm due under the tax credits system. I am not looking forward to that but have to content myself knowing that this is something that would have to be done anyway to avoid infection spreading to other parts of my mouth. I'm just extremely glad that I have been able to keep the tooth as I was not looking forward t an unsightly gap at only 28 years old.
Today my colleague and I represented the Mobility & Access Committee for Scotland at a meeting with network rail in Edinburgh, which was also attended by representatives of several other disabled persons organisations. This was a follow-up to our previous meeting on 28 August 2014 to discuss access issues at Edinburgh Waverly station resulting from the security crackdown relating to vehicles entering the station introduced earlier this summer. The taxi ranks are now a considerable distance from the main station concourse compared to the previous drop-off point resulting immobility challenges, particularly for those with physical disabilities. As well as being longer, the route is also more complex involving manoeuvring across bridges, down lifts and through the wilderness that is the station concourse. In addition to this, we also discussed many issues relating to passenger assistance including assistance personnel failing to show up to collect people arriving on trains, failing to collect people using the help point in Colton Road despite this being pre-booked in advance as well as general interfacing with the station.

Network rail responded by advising us of a number of improvements taking place over the coming months including a 50% increase in the number of staff dedicated to assisting passengers who have booked travel assistance in advance, deployment of a motorised buggy to transport people from the Colton Road help point to the main station, a refurbishment of the East Coast office, now known as the Station Management Centre from where passenger assistance for the station is coordinated, physical improvements to the help points at Colton Road and Market Street. Margaret Heckish, the Accessibility & Inclusion Manager for network rail and coincidentally a previous convenor for MACS was also present at the meeting and advised us of improvements to the passenger assist assistance booking form and confirmation e-mail and the Stations Made easy guides on the network rail website which will be implemented in association with ATOC, the Association of Train Operating Companies.

As well as proving interesting and providing a lot of information to take back to MACS, the meeting was not without its little drama, Most notably when the head of the Edinburgh Access Panel who incidentally also has sight loss delivered a rather boisterous rant accusing the network rail staff of failing to deliver on promises, failures in the process is used to deliver services to disabled passengers and forgiving the meeting nothing more than 'pie in the sky'. I am sure at least a few others in the room found this less than constructive and indeed one of the network rail staff who assisted me back to the station after the meeting confided that this behaviour was completely unprofessional and did nothing to engender any sympathy or feelings of goodwill. I just thought it was crazy for someone who, according to a Google search, has stood on a number of committees within large organisations over the last few years to lose their cool like that in front of other professionals no less.

The meeting took place at the Jury's Inn in Edinburgh starting at 14:00 and despite overrunning by 15 minutes I was back at the station by 16:00 and in good time to meet my assistance who escorted me onto the train to Aberdeen. I was grateful to be given a seat in first-class however it was still a rather cramped 2 1/2 hours due to the 'oversized' gentleman sitting next to me. He did move over to the other side of the table when space became available towards the end of the journey and I was only impressed that despite the inconvenience I was able to compile most of the notes from the meeting in preparation for my report which I will hopefully complete over the weekend. Despite my spending twice as much time travelling as at the meeting I still feel it was a very productive day and a big step forward on knowing exactly what is happening with respect to improving accessibility at the station and having the opportunity to contribute towards it. I was also happy to finally meet the station manager and East Coast manager with whom I have already been in contact via email since the portfolio for Edinburgh Waverley was given to me by and for MACS in July. The new Station Management Centre opens on 12 December and we hope to have another meeting shortly thereafter including a tour of the new facility. I can't wait, and look forward to reporting on it then.
22nd-Oct-2014 11:39 pm - MACS Committee Meeting - October 2014
I attended the last Mobility & Access Committee for Scotland committee meeting for 2014 at Victoria Quay in Edinburgh. It is scary to recall that I have already been on the committee for one year, a year which has been very busy as a member of the rail and bus work streams, particularly dealing with the franchise tenders for the Caledonian sleeper and ScotRail services. I have also worked on accessibility audits at Haymarket station, looked over the Edinburgh trams before they went into service and engaged with Edinburgh Waverly on their operational signage consultation and accessibility considerations. My successful annual appraisal last Friday and positive comments from the Convener said me up in good stead for the second of my three-year term.

I was particularly looking forward to this meeting as for a change I had a reasonable amount to contribute prepared beforehand; updates to the rail work stream relating to my meeting with the office of rail regulation and engagement with Edinburgh Waverly. The latter was especially important as I now have evidence from passengers detailing their poor experiences with passenger assistance. I had to be careful to reiterate when speaking with these passengers that I was not able to represent them as a member of MACS, however the evidence is still valid and has been conveyed to the station management. I also updated the bus work stream with a summary of actions taken by First Bus following my roundtable discussion with them in December 2013. Improvements to services include the introduction of talking buses on routes 12 and 19 in Aberdeen, updates to driver training using the MyGuide package developed by Guide Dogs and engagement with disabled passengers through North East Sensory Services. I was pleased to have the opportunity to deliver the update better late than never, especially as there was an eight month delay in receiving any response from First Bus. Nevertheless, when I did finally manage to establish contact they were very helpful and provided me with all the information I required.

The meeting comprised its usual format; updates from the convener and Secretariat followed by each work stream in turn with the opportunity for questions in addition to the reports delivered. We had a talk from a guest speaker representing the Confederation of Passenger Transport telling us about what this body does with particular emphasis on how this relates to driver training and competency. We then had the opportunity for questions at which point I asked if there was any mechanism to standardise learning across operators based on new knowledge attained as a result of passenger experiences or complaints. For example, if a passenger complained about difficulty reaching their seat due to the bus moving off before they had a chance to be seated, and the operator made changes to their training package as a result, how could other operators learn from this to ensure the same issue did not happen to anyone else? The speaker thought this was a good question and agreed to look into this and one hopes he can come back to the committee with an answer at a later date.

Lunch was the usual sandwiches, fruit and cheese and given an 11:00 start the meeting wound up by 15:15. I was asked to stay behind for a few minutes by the head of the rail work stream and then offered if I would like the opportunity to lead the work stream when they step down next year. I was reassured that they would remain on for an additional year to act as support, and there is every possibility that I would share the lead role with a colleague who joined the committee at the same time as myself. I am more than happy to take on any challenge even though it will definitely be a steep learning curve but was told to think about it and give my final answer early next year.

After a very enjoyable meeting, but one filled with a lot of content and note taking I had an uneventful journey home shared with a colleague who also lives in Aberdeen and with some lively discussion with a fellow passenger on the train. We talked a little about Kenya and later about Dubai where he and his wife recently visited for their anniversary. I have always wanted to travel there but was advised that it is expensive and definitely not the place for frequent holidays.

It looks as though I will be kept busy until the end of the year but I look forward to it and to reporting to the next MACS meeting in January 2015.
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