Transport for All have spoken out angrily against TfL plans to close weekday District line services to Kensington Olympia, a stepfree interchange station.
At a public meeting yesterday, chaired by Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter, disabled people spoke passionately about how their mobility would be damaged if the plans went ahead.
Current proposals by London Underground to close weekday District line services to Kensington Olympia will remove the only fully stepfree interchanges between Underground and Overground services in the area.
The proposals will make it impossible for disabled people to reach Olympia exhibition halls and the surrounding area via the Underground network.
TfL’s proposal is to provide just 5 extra trains a day on the Wimbledon branch of the District line (about a 1% increase) and a single extra train on the Ealing Broadway branch, at the expense of the entire weekday service to Olympia. They claim the closure will increase reliability through Earl’s Court.
At the meeting, residents and concerned groups challenged Richard Parry, London Underground’s Strategic Director. Over 250 people attended and there was standing room only.
“Again and again, we have seen TfL cut their targets for stepfree Tube access on the grounds that installing lifts is expensive”, said Lianna Etkind, Campaigns Coordinator at Transport for All.
“At Kensington Olympia, we have a working, successful stepfree interchange station which is used and valued by disabled people from across the capital. The Mayor’s Transport Strategy Accessibility Implementation Plan clearly states that interchanges are a ‘cornerstone’ to a more accessible Underground network. Yet TfL’s proposals to close services at Olympia will further erode transport accessibility in London.”
“These proposals fly in the face of disabled people’s right to equal access.”.
TfL’s suggested alternative route is to use existing Overground services to and from Kensington. Disabled passengers and those with small children or heavy luggage approaching Olympia by tube from central London would be required to climb a steep flight of stairs in order to continue their journey by Overground.
The nearest alternative step-free Underground stations are Hammersmith and Earl’s Court, both over 0.8 miles away.
The only step-free interchange between the Underground and this branch of the Overground in West London is at Willesden Junction. The interchange at nearby West Brompton is step-free in only one direction only, while at Willesden Junction, passengers can change only onto the Bakerloo Line, which has only one stepfree tube station (Harrow and Wealdstone).
Kensington Olympia is the only stepfree interchange which allows access to the rest of Central London.
Signatories of the resident’s petition write:
“I am disabled, in my 80s. I cannot use bus transport. Olympia allows me to travel to other London destinations.”
“I am in my 70s and the Olympia tube service is invaluable to allow me to travel in the area without navigating large amounts of steps.”
“I suffer from MS and have difficulty walking. I live close to Olympia station and it is IMPORTANT that I can get on a tube easily to work and generally get about. I would seriously have to rethink what I can do if this service goes.”
“As a new mum I rely on the step free access of Olympia that West Ken does not offer.”
“We use the line for its disabled access, changing at West Brompton means two sets of stairs in either the up or down direction. Discrimination laws would seem to preclude against its closure regardless of TFL’s desires.”