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Disabled Transatlantic Sailor 'Publicly Degraded' By Train Guard

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Geoff Holt said he felt '
Geoff Holt said he felt '"publicly degraded" by the guard's behaviour

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 "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, the Press Association reported.

Writing on his blog, the award winning sailor, who champions disability issues and was awarded an MBE in 2010, said: "I can't recall the last time that I was so angry and upset I was physically shaking, emotion choking my voice, a sense of genuine rage.

"So why the rage? 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.

"Reminding myself this was 2012, not 1912, this was public transport and this was the year the Paralympics were coming to Britain, the red mist was descending.

"Expanding his fictional list of reasons why I could not travel, he then said, if he got me on this train, there was no guarantees I could get off three minutes later (at) the same station I had successfully travelled from earlier that morning.

"Trying to intimidate me, he said I might have to stay on the train to Shanklin, over 12 miles away. When I said I had made the journey hours earlier, he said, and I quote: 'rubbish, you would not have been allowed to board the train'.

"Eventually, after several minutes of his posturing, huffing and puffing, Guard 1003 lifted the tiny ramp stored on the train and, quite literally, threw it on the platform, hitting my foot and leg in the process (when I got home, I found it was grazed and bleeding, I did not know this at the time because I can't feel it).

"And with that simple, easy manoeuvre, which took him only 10 seconds, I was on the train, Guard 1003 snarling at me like some prison guard. All the other passengers looked on in disbelief but, in typical British fashion did nothing."

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."