TfL tests out transport access for the Games
Added: 23 April 2012 | Updated: 26 April 2012
With the Games less than 100 days away, Transport for London (TfL) is planning for the summer, when the Tube will be even more crowded than it is today. The Olympic and Paralympic Games will add another 3 million trips per day to a network already creaking under growing passenger demand.
Last Sunday, TfL tested how the transport system will cope with increase footfall during the Games. With the London Marathon in full force, the stations were more than full and a great testing environment for the Games time in the summer. TfL sent nearly 100 people with a range of impairments into the Tube network to test it.
Arriving at the TfL Palestra building on Sunday was a challenge in itself. Stations were full and the trains were as packed as a Monday morning rush hour.
It’s not only the trains which will be more full than normal. Station lifts too will be under higher pressure from passengers. Several groups went to stations along the Jubilee line to test the lifts. A member of staff from TfL was at every lift, recording how long people had to wait for the lift and who was using them.
Long queues for lifts
“When we arrived at London Bridge station to get to Southwark for the briefing, there were already twenty pushchairs in a queue in front of the lift“, says Christiane Link, who is a wheelchair user and took part in the test event. “It was clear why Transport for London need to do some testing to avoid this during Gamestime.” Lift queues were long, so encouraging people to use the escalators was only one challenge the staff had to face. They also had to try to get as many people into the lift as possible. Some pushchair users were jumping the queue, which didn’t make it any easier for the staff. A number of non-disabled users tried to get into the lift instead of using the escalators, ignoring the queue of sometimes more than 20 people waiting already.
Another issue was getting into a train that was already full. Wheelchair users need more space than people who walk into the train. So having to wait for several trains to go by before there is space to board will be normal during the Games.
The disabled testers gave feedback to TfL about what needs to be improved to shorten waiting times for lifts. It was clear that TfL staff at the lifts will not only need to have good communication skills to manage these situations, they also need some visual imagination to plan how many passengers will fit into each lift, including wheelchair users. Staff will have to steward the next group ready for boarding as soon as the lift has left to the next floor, just to speed up the process. The main question was “How many people will fit in one lift?”. It was like a jigsaw puzzle of wheelchair users, pushchairs and people. The TfL staff tried their best, but it was clear that more training is necessary.
Encouraging non-disabled users not to use the lifts and to use the alternatives was another of the suggestions. Even with the best management in place, it’s anticipated that people will have to wait in excess of fifteen minutes for the lift. People need leave lots of extra time for their journey during the Games time. TfL can’t make the lifts bigger and faster for the Games, but it was announced at the event that some emergency lifts will be used in addition to the standard lifts.
Long term improvements
Isabelle Clement, who also participated in the test event, said: “It was good that TfL organised this event, although I am not reassured by Sunday’s test. We will have difficulties getting on trains, at least in groups. I hope that TfL will take our feedback on board, not only for the Games but provide long term improvements.”
So if you’re planning to use public transport during the Games, plan ahead, be patient and be aware that it can be much longer to get from A to B. Especially if you have tickets for the Games, leave early. Otherwise you may not arrive at the venue until the medals have been handed out.
You can find more information on travelling during the Games as a disabled or older person at www.transportforall.org.uk/2012/