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Access on the new Tube for London

In December 2014, as part of our Pan London Mobility Forum, we invited several stakeholders to discuss vehicle design with us. This was a great chance to ask transport providers some questions about the New Tube for London project, which will introduce 250 new tube trains and new signalling on several Underground lines by the mid-2020s, at a cost of around £16 billion.

The new trains will feature several accessibility enhancements which will benefit to older and disabled passengers.

Lower-floor trains will enable step-free access from platform to train at all stations, more space for wheelchair users; a new style of information screens will give far more information than the current dot-matrix displays; and there will be a smaller horizontal gap between the platform and the train. This reduced gap is made possible because each segment of the train will be shorter than the current carriages.

Concerns

Transport for All welcomes all these enhancements, but we have two serious concerns about the new trains, which we raised with London Underground representatives at the Pan London Mobility Forum.

The grabrails will be a burgundy colour, which is too dark and will not provide the high-contrast required for people with visual impairments. This colour appears to have been chosen for aesthetic and heritage reasons, rather than for practical reasons. We urge TfL to reconsider this choice of colour.

Our second concern is that although all stations will have step-free access from platform to train, this is of little use to wheelchair users and people with mobility problems until the stations themselves are made step-free from street to platform.

The first new trains will appear on the Piccadilly Line from about 2022, with the Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo & City Line following by the mid-2020s. The trains will have walk-through carriages (as on London Overground), wider doors and a far greater capacity than the current trains. The extra capacity is very much needed, as London’s population is expected to increase from 8.4 million today to around 10 million by 2030.

So there are many good things to look forward to with these new trains, even if we do have some concerns about them. We hope that they will make life easier for older and disabled people in London. But we must not forget that currently less than a quarter of London’s tube stations are accessible from street to platform, and Transport for All will continue to campaign for improvements to this situation. The tube should be for everyone!

by Chris Stapleton