A 32-year-old blind man from Southend has admitted that his ‘wildest dreams have come true’ after receiving a job offer to drive trains for local operator c2c – the train company who operates between Shoeburyness, Southend, Basildon and London.
Geoff Spaddington has been entirely blind since birth, and earlier today he completed the final stage of the training and selection process with the help of his trusty guide dog Stan.
Speaking EXCLUSIVELY to Southend News Network, Geoff said that their close working partnership will ensure that the highest levels of passenger safety are upheld at all times.
He added: ‘Stan and me have been together since I was 23, and I have loved seeing the way that he has really thrown himself into the train operator formation programme.’
‘For example, when we pull into a station he starts barking, and he cuts the gap between each bark more and more until we have reached the appropriate stopping point for a certain length of train.’
‘He knows how to use the video monitors, and he is trained to rest his chin on my leg once everyone has boarded the carriages – he gives out a unique whining sound if I need to open them again.’
‘The most important part of his training is that he growls if I am approaching a red signal. I can hear his tail wagging when everything is going well and we are passing green lights.’
‘For some reason he gets a bit agitated whenever we go through Pitsea, but overall he is an amazing guy to have in the cab with me.’
We asked Geoff how he is able to read the timetable and make sure that all of his trains arrive and depart on time.
He replied: ‘The great thing about the current c2c timetable is that it is pretty much random and scatter-style. This means that I start and stop the train a regular intervals and nine times out of ten my trains end up there or thereabouts.’
A spokesperson for the Railway Train Operators Union confirmed that Mr Spaddington’s role was entirely legal as he has demonstrated a ‘clear and competent ability’ to drive a train when he has his guide dog present.
He added: ‘He can fulfil all of his obligatory duties when he has Stan in the cab with him, so this means that any attempt to stop him from doing so would be in contravention of the Equal Opportunities Act and the Disability Discrimination Act.’