Rail guard 'degraded' disabled man
The first quadriplegic sailor to sail solo across the Atlantic was told by a guard he could not board a train because his electric wheelchair would damage the floor.
Humiliated Geoff Holt, 45, said he could not recall the last time he was so upset and angry after the incident on the Island Line's three-minute Ryde Pier to Ryde Esplanade service on the Isle of Wight on Saturday.
To his horror, he said, "in typical British fashion", no passenger came to his aid as he argued with the guard.
The unnamed guard has now been suspended pending an investigation and a senior manager has apologised, the "horrified" train operator has confirmed. British Transport Police also said they were investigating.
Writing on his blog, the award-winning sailor, who champions disability issues and was awarded an MBE in 2010, said: "Quite simply, a guard on the train, specifically 'Guard 1003' as he reluctantly identified himself when pressed, refused to let me board the 4.45pm train - the same journey I had made nine hours earlier.
"Why? To quote Guard 1003, pointing at my wheelchair, 'Those things aren't allowed on these trains, they will damage the floors'. I couldn't quite believe what I heard and asked him to repeat it, which he did."
Mr Holt has been in a wheelchair since a swimming accident 28 years ago in the Caribbean and he completed his 2,700-mile transatlantic sail in 2010 finishing at the site of his 1984 accident.
The father-of-one added: "He had publicly humiliated me, he had publicly degraded me and he had made me feel like a worthless piece of dirt... it was quite simply the most disgusting way to treat another human being, let alone a disabled one."
An Island Line spokesman said: "We are absolutely horrified at the events Mr Holt has described. We welcome electric wheelchairs on our services and it is very important to us that all of our passengers feel welcome on our network.
"We are taking this matter very seriously and have already launched an investigation. A senior manager has contacted Mr Holt directly to apologise. We can also confirm that one of our employees has been suspended while our investigation is under way."