Islington Disability Network and Transport for All are campaigning for the Mayor to keep the promise to make London’s tube stations step free.
Supported by MP Jeremy Corbyn, London Assembly member Jennette Arnold, Islington Council Leader Terry Stacey and local councilors including Catherine West; they are fighting to make Highbury and Islington and Finsbury Park stations accessible for all people with reduced mobility including disabled and older people, and parents with young children.
In a city the size of London, ease of travel is vital to its businesses and communities. The Underground is the quickest way to get around London, and yet it is inaccessible to many people because most stations have no lifts to the platforms, and so older people, wheelchair users, visually impaired people with guide dogs, and parents with prams or buggies are unable to reach the trains.
The previous Mayor of London announced that Highbury and Islington and Finsbury Park Underground Stations would be made step free by 2013 – part of an accessible ‘foundation network’ of 45 tube stations that would amount to 33% of the entire network. However, in 2008 Boris Johnson announced that due to financial pressures on Transport for London the ‘step free’ programme will be cut back, and in June 2009 the Mayor stated that advancing any of the deferred step free access schemes is not currently possible due to funding constraints, but if more funding was made available TfL would re-evaluate this situation. Given that on 5th October 2009 Mayor Boris Johnson proudly declared savings of £5bn in TfL campaigners are now asking him to take another look at funding the deferred schemes; if he can save £5bn can he also find the necessary investment to keep the promise for step free access?
Highbury and Islington and Finsbury Park are among the stations that have been deferred by TfL, despite both stations undergoing major improvements to accessibility on the Overground and the Victoria lines. This essentially means that the mobility impaired won’t be able to change between an accessible Overground and accessible Underground line at either station, resulting in a lengthy detour by bus in order to change trains.
This is a major step back, and as a result Boris Johnson, who in 2008 said “It is frankly a disgrace that in the 21st century anyone should be struggling to move around the city”, is now denying disabled and older people, and parents with young children access to the employment, education, social and leisure opportunities that London has to offer. Both stations are vital for people attending events at the Emirates Stadium, and will be important links in transporting visitors to the 2012 Games. However, the Mayor’s lack of commitment to disabled peoples’ access to transport makes us wonder how the Mayor will keep his post-Beijing pledge to make London’s 2012 Olympics and Paralympics the most accessible ever.
Campaigners are also seeking legal advice on the application of the Disability Discrimination Act with regards to the station improvements.
Islington Disability Network and Transport for All joined by Jennette Arnold, Jermey Corbyn M.P and local councilors in a petitioning session at Finsbury Park Station on 26th October.
Many signatures were collected and there was much support for the cause. Another session is planned for early December – watch this space!
You can also sign the online petition for Finsbury Park station here: http://www.gopetition.co.uk/petitions/give-us-access-to-finsbury-park.html