Working on the Tube with Parkinson's

Sajid talks about his experience of having Parkinson’s and working on the London Underground.

In 2001 I started work as a train driver on the London Underground, on the Jubilee and Central lines. I enjoyed my job – I got to work different shifts, there was a great sense of camaraderie between other drivers and I thankfully never experienced anything too dramatic on the lines.

10 years later, on a cold January morning, I slipped and tore some cartilage in my knee. Following an operation to fix it, I started to experience problems with my balance. My physiotherapist got concerned and said that I should see a neurologist. Later that year I was given the news that I had Parkinson’s. I was 52 at the time. 

Driving trains on the Underground is a high-risk job. Even though many trains are now automatic, where the technology can calculate the exact moment a train pulls into a station and slow it down, you have to be 100% focused on what’s going on. If there’s a person on the tracks, you have to be able to hit the emergency stop button immediately. Because of this, I decided to tell my manager straight away about my diagnosis. They were very supportive and understanding, as were my colleagues, but I had to stop driving due to the risk involved. 

Work and keeping busy is still a huge part of my life.

London Underground helped me find another role within the organisation, and I started doing office-based work. At the time I was still trying to find the right medication to manage my 2 main symptoms – a shuffling walk and problems with balance. 

I eventually felt more settled with my medication and I asked if I could be tested to drive trains again, since this was my real passion. They agreed to and found me fit to drive again.

However, 9 months later, while walking back from an early morning shift, I lost my balance and had a bad fall where I hurt my elbow, ribs and hands. Straight away I knew I couldn’t carry on with my work and made a decision to take early retirement. The union representative was helpful and gave me lots of information and support. I retired in 2014. 

Work and keeping busy is still a huge part of my life. Following retirement, I got involved with my Parkinson’s UK local group at Waltham Forest, where I’m currently Vice-Chairman. I really want to dedicate as much time as possible to the group.

My religion is something else that keeps me focused – I get up at 5am each morning to go to the mosque and pray, even if it’s snowing and icy outside! I feel I’m lucky enough to be able to do these things, and it’s an important part of managing my symptoms and giving me a sense of purpose in life.

Find out more about work and Parkinson's