Paralympic medalist left in tears by treatment on West Coast Main Line

A Paralympic medalist has called for improved treatment for people with disabilities from the operators of the West Coast Main Line.

Ellie Challis, a world swimming record holder, moved to Manchester to be nearer training facilities.

The 19-year-old has criticised rail operator Avanti West Coast saying she's been left frustrated and in tears by her experiences with their service.

Ellie Challis moved to Manchester to be closer to swimming facilities. Credit: ITV News

On one occasion Ellie was told she could not board a train because there were people standing in the wheelchair spaces.

After a heated discussion Ellie eventually got on, but the situation took its toll on the young athlete as she sat surrounded by luggage.

Ellie said: "I'm 19, I'm in a wheelchair, I'm a lot lower than everyone else.  I can argue with these grown men but when the situation is done, it's scary."

Ellie was 16 months old when she contracted meningitis and was given just a five percent chance of survival, resulting in the amputation of her four limbs.

Ellie Challis is a Paralympic swimmer. Credit: Sport England

But she won a silver medal at the Tokyo Paralympics and is a gold medal hope for the Paralympics Swimming World Championship.

She says her train troubles are not an ideal way to prepare for the competition.

She said: "I end up crying a lot of the time.  I end up having to shout out of the train door to get people's attention."

Ellie Challis represented Great Britain at the 2020 Summer Paralympics. Credit: Sport England

Ellie added: "I do everything by myself.  I live by myself a lot of the time, I travel by myself, I do everything by myself, I've just learned to drive, I can do that now, and I will never get onto a train by myself again."

Ellie has had a face to face meeting with Avanti but says more needs to be done for those with disabilities.

An Avanti West Coast spokesperson said: “We’re really sorry to hear about Ellie’s experiences on our services. 

"We are currently looking into the circumstances at Manchester Piccadilly when she travelled with us, and we have been in touch with Ellie to find out what happened.

“At Avanti West Coast we are determined that everyone should be able to use the railways and accessibility is extremely important to us. 

"We’ll continue to listen to our customers as well as speaking with our industry-leading accessibility panels which allow us to help us understand how we can improve as a business in this area.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...