Scotrail Breakthrough


Public transport can be a complete minefield for many experiencing difficulties with mental health. It has emerged as the biggest difficulty for me when it comes to severe anxiety and panic.

I find it very difficult to be within a situation where I cannot escape easily. Trains, planes, buses make you feel almost vacuum packed with a magnifying glass being held over you.

When it comes to panic attacks, you are in desperate need of a distraction or escape to try and manage the situation. Therefore, you plan things meticulously to ensure you have the most comfortable journey or experience as you can.

When it comes to travelling by train, one of the benefits of booking is that you can book your seats. This means you can book away from people, sit at the back or near a toilet. Being near a toilet is invaluable for me. Another aspect of severe anxiety is that your bladder weakens severely and you need to go to the toilet more often than others thanks to fight or flight. Your body is trying to rid itself of excess weight and as beautiful as that is in terms of the human body, it can be incredibly inconvenient and embarrassing at times.

The other bonus to having a toilet near you is that if things become a bit too unmanageable on a busy or long train is that you have somewhere to sit for a few minutes to regain your thoughts and your breathing.

When it comes to booking Scotrail trains, you can never secure a particular seat and it’s almost like a lottery at times. Whilst you can request to sit near a toilet, you can end up halfway down a carriage and on a busy train, it’s not great.

I had a breakthrough this week. When I say breakthrough, I have been looking for a bit of a solution to things for the last 15 years. Scotrail customer services were of no help so I vented through the medium of social media just to try and express the problems with large companies.

They replied:

I have always thought that Accessible Travel with Scotrail was for the disabled or those with mobility issues as reflected with the wording on the site. However, I went through the form and selected other and explained my circumstances.

Fast forward to my journey. I got a confirmation about assisted travel, spoke to information and they have me the platform number 20 minutes before it was announced. I was then able to get on the train before anyone else and sit next to the toilet.

I wish I could put into words how important having something as simple as this is. It aids social anxiety as you don’t have any real highlight on you, but you are getting time to plan in advance.

The link for accessible travel is HERE.

If you just select ‘other’ and explain your circumstances.

Whilst I know that Scotrail are training 50 people to address mental health within their company, I hope they take the feedback and update this section of their site to make it more accessible for those with mental health problems.

It probably won’t be possible within smaller stations, but when travelling from big stations this is an incredible aid.

Travelling is something that many take for granted. Believe me, if I could travel more I know my mental health would improve and so would my life in general. This has been a step forward.

[Halina Rifai]

Halina Rifai