Scooter boss bids to find Metro solution

THE boss of a North East mobility scooter manufacturer says he wants to meet Nexus bosses to find a solution to the Metro ban on the machines.

Sam Wood drives a motorised scooter on the test course

THE boss of a North East mobility scooter manufacturer says he wants to meet Nexus bosses to find a solution to the Metro ban on the machines.

Roger Somerville, of Peacocks Medical Group, says he believes there should a competency test for users so scooters could be used on the network in safety.

And Metro bosses told The Journal last night that such a move was not being ruled out.

This week all mobility scooters were banned from the Metro network after a series of accidents raised concerns over their safety.

In the past 12 months, two scooters have been driven off the platform and on to tracks and another two have been driven straight through trains and smashed though the opposite door before landing on the tracks. In each case, the victim only suffered minor injuries but Nexus bosses feared it was just a matter time before a more serious accident occurred.

The ban applies to all mobility scooters, but not motorised wheelchairs, and will be reviewed in six months.

It is estimated there could be as many as 5,000 scooters in use across the North East.

Currently there is no regulation over buying them and a scooter weighing 140kg which travels at eight miles an hour can be purchased over the internet very easily, with no testing for the owners.

Peacocks Medical Group, based in Benfield Industrial Estate and St Thomas Street, both Newcastle, produces and sells the scooters throughout Great Britain and even exports them to the Middle East and New Zealand.

Mr Somerville, group director of the company, said: “I can understand why Nexus feel they need to implement this ban because there are safety issues. But many people who drive these things are perfectly competent to do so and don’t have any accidents. It seems unfair that everybody has to suffer with a blanket ban.

“We think there could be around 5,000 of these in the region. They are supposed to give freedom to people to get about and this ban prevents that.”

Mr Somerville said it was not the scooters that were the problem.

He said: “It is the drivers who are the danger. We test every customer we sell to and we have refused to sell them in the past.

“But it is very easy to get hold of them over the internet and there are a lot of companies who will just sell them without any checks and that is where the problems come in.

“Scooters aren’t always that easy to control and they need some training before they can be used properly.

“I am hoping to meet with Nexus in the next few weeks to see if we can work together to come up with a solution.”

A Nexus spokesman said: “The ban on mobility scooters will be reviewed after six months and a central part of our action plan is to look at how a mobility scooter competency test can be established. It’s not something we are ruling out.”

Reporter puts machine through its paces

Click here to watch a video of Sam's test drive >>

JOURNAL reporter Sam Wood went to Peacocks Medical Group, which builds and distributes mobility scooters in Wallsend, to test-drive one to see what all the fuss is about.

He said: “At first driving the scooters is quite tricky. They are very heavy for their size and not the most manoeuvrable vehicles.

“The machines are controlled by paddles on the handle bars which can be easily pulled or pushed to move in the right direction.

“The brakes on the larger machines are the same as on a bike but smaller machines only brake if you let go of the accelerator.

“On full power they go at quite a lick and when going over bumps and humps, you get quite a bashing.

“It is easy to see how someone could get bounced out of their seat and accelerate instead of braking, which may have happened when the scooter driver was getting on to the Metro, resulting in them smashing out the other side.

“The test course at Peacocks has a few challenging ramps and an obstacle course but after a couple of laps I got the hang of it and was manoeuvring in and out with ease, tackling all the ramps at full pelt, which is eight miles an hour for the bigger scooters.

“I see no reason why, with maybe half an hour’s training, they can’t be used on the Metro quite safely by any driver.”

Page 2: Users' anger and scooter rules elsewhere in the UK >>

Users' anger

MOBILITY scooter users have been expressing their anger at Nexus over the ban since it was introduced on Wednesday.

Joseph Munroe, 95, who lives in sheltered accommodation in North Shields, has been driving his scooter for three years and has never had an accident.

Mr Munroe lives at Edith Moffat House on Albion Road and loaded bombs on to aircraft during the Second World War.

He is unable to walk far due to asthma attacks and arthritis in both his feet.

He said: “This ban is treating all scooter users the same. I have been driving my scooter for years and have never had any problems. We are all different. I don’t see why I should be banned from the Metro because others have had accidents.

“I love going out and about but I will really struggle now I can’t use the Metro.”

Scooter rules elsewhere

THE Tyne and Wear Metro is one of only a few systems in Britain which ban mobility scooters.

Nottingham and Sheffield have no such ban and there are no restrictions on passengers using the underground in both London and Glasgow.

But Liverpool’s Merseyrail and the Manchester tram system do have bans in place on their routes.

In fact, the tram network in Manchester has been off limits to scooter users since it opened in 1992.

Restrictions were first introduced on the Tyne and Wear Metro as a temporary measure in April, when scooter users were banned from travelling on the Metro alone and had to be accompanied.

But from Wednesday the new regulations came into effect outlawing scooters from all 60 stations across Tyne and Wear.

Nexus says it is looking into alternative arrangements, including community travel schemes and TaxiLink.

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