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Better communications about broken lifts is urgently needed

A few days ago, TfA member Doug Paulley, famous for his victory over the wheelchair priority space on buses, faced an appalling situation caused by poor communication about a broken lift at Kings Cross Tube station. Doug found himself trapped and unable to exit the station as the lift to take him above ground was out of order. No information was relayed across the network about this vital lift having broken down and it put Doug under intense pressure as he needed to catch the last train back to his home in Yorkshire.

For many Disabled and older Londoners this situation sounds way too common. It’s frustrating that communicating about broken lifts across the network – via announcements at stations and on trains - is not happening. Not everyone has access to internet and especially when they are underground! Information should be provided by staff at stations, by drivers and displayed on all audio-visual displays.

In addition lifts should be repaired as emergency repairs. As Doug rightly says, “they don’t treat lift failures with the same alacrity as they would escalator and stair problems.”

Transport for All is writing to the Managing Director of the London Underground Mark Wild, who we will meet very soon.

Please contact our Accessible Transport Advice Line, if you find yourself in the same situation, or face any issues while travelling. Every time we report a problem, it helps build the case for a more inclusive and reliable transport system.

Here’s Doug Paulley’s story and video:

“I caught the Underground back to Kings Cross this evening, but the lift to the surface was out. No warning at Westminster or Green Park station, no sign what to do.

So I pressed the info point button. Yes, said the guy, the station currently doesn’t have step free status. So what should I do, I asked? That floored him: despite the lift having been out since this morning, they hasn’t considered what wheelchair users should do or how to advise them. Please hold.

He eventually said to me: catch a tube to Caledonian Road and a bus back. Oh really, in time for my train in half an hour? He said: catch a later train. I said: it’s the last train. (Which it was, ticket only valid on Grand Central.)

I asked where it had been announced? I hadn’t seen any notices or heard any announcements at Green Park or Westminster. He said: it’s on the website. Apparently they expect wheelchair users to check the website immediately before each and every journey. Personally I don’t see why I should, and of course many people can’t – no smartphone, learning difficulty, manual dexterity, no data plan...

I asked what they’d do if the steps and escalator were out, wouldn’t this be announced to all and sundry? and why aren’t lift breakdowns treated similarly? I said: is it because it’s just disabled people who are affected? He said: no, people with pushchairs and older people are also affected. I said: exactly! So warn people! If I’d have known, I’d have caught the June to London Bridge and the Northern to Kings Cross.

I said: come down and see me in person and please accompany me to Caledonian Road and back. He said they weren’t staffed for that, and cut me off.

I then repeatedly and continuously mashed the info call button and the emergency button. The emergency button kept saying there was no line to British Transport Police available. So I sat there and repeatedly pressed the button, and asked my carer to go upstairs. A few minutes later a voice came over the tannoy admonishing me and asking me to stop pressing the button because it would prevent any other customer in difficulties from being able to get through. However, by that point the emergency button had got stuck in the pressed in state.

Eventually two junior staff and the station manager turned up. The station manager was the one who had made the pissed-off (annoyed?) telling-off announcement, she had a face like the back of a bus. They again said that the broken down lift was on their website, at which point I realised that their website was actually down. They failed to address my point that they don’t treat lift failures with the same alacrity as they would escalator and stair problems.

They eventually decided to assist me up the escalator. I was assisted up by three staff, in my wheelchair. And I caught the train.“

Doug Paulley. Follow Doug on Twitter: @kingqueen3065