When 7-months-pregnant Claire Hillard, 36, found herself in a scrum of people rushing for a delayed train from Cookham, Berkshire, to London, she made the decision to sit in first class, worried that the lack of seats and the vast throng of people would harm her or her unborn child.
When the Great Western train’s inspector came along to check tickets, Claire offered to pay for an upgrade from her standard class fare, and explained that she had sat in first class because she was concerned for the safety of her baby.
Despite Claire quite obviously being heavily pregnant, the inspector reportedly then asked her for proof of her pregnancy before he would issue her with a ticket rather than a fine.
But apparently her 3rd trimester baby bump obviously wasn’t evidence enough, because the inspector asked her for a doctor’s note. (Yes, because we all carry those around when using public transport, just in CASE anyone should think we’re faking a giant stomach, swollen ankles and boobs like rocks *rolls eyes*).
Outraged Claire explained what had happened to her local paper, and said that her usual train was delayed and then had a platform change, resulting in something of a ‘stampede’ of commuters crossing the platform and rushing to get on the overcrowded train.
“I took a seat in first class, but I didn’t just want to travel for free – especially as there were other people who had a first class ticket who were having to stand,” Claire said. “When the guard asked for my ticket I told him I was 7 months pregnant but happy to pay the difference. He then asked me if I had a cover note from my doctor to prove I was pregnant. I thought he was joking at first.”
Well, er, yes – have you SEEN the pic of her bump?
The inspector then reportedly went on to tell Claire that it was “unfair” that she was sitting in first class. Something she said made her feel “like a piece of dirt on his shoe”.
Fortunately, other people in the carriage had a tad more understanding and compassion, offering her their own seats.
“One guy, who was standing, said no-one would have made me give up that seat,” Claire said.
The furious mum, who already has a son, Max, eventually paid a first class upgrade to her ticket, which she had been more than willing to do from the start, but says she was made to look and feel like a ‘bad person’ for simply taking steps to ensure her unborn baby’s safety on an overcrowded train.
“‘It was an extreme situation and inspectors should be able to use their own judgment,” she said. “I feel for the pregnant women who don’t have the confidence to look after themselves and break the rules. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people that walk around with cushions stuffed up their t-shirts.”
She said the inspector “represents cold-hearted people that sadly exist, a cold-hearted company that sadly exists and clearly feels the need to stick up for first class passengers over a pregnant woman”.
The Mail reports that Great Western Railway declined to comment on Claire’s case. However, we know that they offer Pregnancy Priority Seat card called a ‘Mums2B pass’ which allows a free upgrade to first class for standard season ticket holders in the event of there being no seats available. In order for a mum to get one of these passes, you need to send the rail company proof of your pregnancy – either a copy of your MatB1 form or a letter from your GP.
We know all about this – we’ve compiled a list of what each rail company offers pregnant women and most do ask for proof. However, Claire’s case was an exceptional one – where the train was overcrowded through no fault of her own and she felt at risk.
Claire took to Facebook to vent her frustration, and to share a snap of her very obvious bump from the article in her local newspaper. She said she wanted train companies to be more accommodating to mums-to-be, writing: “Page 3 of the Maidenhead advertiser, please help share to try and get the #greatwesternrailway rules changed and make them be more understanding of all pregnant women!”
Have you struggled to get a seat on a train and been forced to sit in first class just to feel safe like Claire? Have you ever been asked to prove you are actually pregnant? Do let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.
Pics: Claire Hillard/Facebook