Disabled and older campaigners are celebrating the news of LU’s decision to hire 600 Customer Service Assistants (CSAs), following their cuts to 800 station staff last year.
Together with the 300 extra staff that London Underground hired in February this year, the rehiring will do a great deal to ensure that older and disabled transport users are able to travel with confidence.
When the staff cuts on the Underground were announced more than a year ago, Transport for All activists campaigned for their right to travel independently, with staff assistance.
TfA received complaints from disabled passengers, especially blind people, who’d been left stranded when they arrived at an unstaffed station. Mohammed Mohsanali has been left without assistance regularly, and recently, when on the way back from Transport for All’s Mayoral Hustings, he fell and was hurt when, in the absence of the member of staff he’d booked to meet him off the train, he had to rely on a well-meaning but untrained passenger.
A visible staff presence at stations make disabled and older people feel safer too. A survey by Scope found that over the last two years, disabled people have reported a 50 percent increase in verbal abuse and intimidation on London’s public transport. Uniformed staff are a more effective deterrent for disability hate crime than a hundred CCTV cameras.
Susannah Moore, a blind transport user from Stamford Brook in West London, said it was ‘marvellous news’
“I can’t praise the staff highly enough, they help me every day of my life“, she said. “They are helpful and have all had training – they know what to do and are never patronising.“
She said that staff cuts had had an impact, especially at smaller stations.
“Recently I arrived at Stamford Brook on a platform I don’t normally use. I wasn’t sure where the steps where and there were no members of staff there. A member of the public helped but the steps were on other end of platform to the platform I normally use“.
Let’s hope that London Underground’s recognition that staffing is a key part of accessibility influences the Government as they consider the McNulty review, which recommends cutting station staffing at mainline stations.