A few weeks ago, Transport for London published the new version of their publication ‘Your accessible transport network’. This is a great opportunity for disabled and older people to know more about TfL’s plans for the next years.
You can read the full document here (see below for accessible versions).
Transport for All welcomes this document and most of the improvements in it. Despite some positive announcements we also spotted some delays and changes. We met with Transport for London to raise some of these issues and get their feedback.
This is the third version of the document which the Mayor of London and TfL present as their ‘commitment to making it even easier for [people] to travel around London’. Sir Peter Hendy CBE, Transport Commissioner says: “We are working hard to bring improvements to as many people as we can and recognise that there is much more to do.” There is indeed still lots to do. The document states “There are now 197 London Underground, London Overground, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and Tramlink stations and stops with step-free access” ,but this is without mentioning the fact that this is out of more than 400 stations. Since the DLR and Tramlink are fully accessible, only 25% of the London Underground stations are step-free to platform (even fewer step-free to train) and nearly 50% on the Overground.
Stations and trains
There is some good news regarding stations and trains. £76m has been committed to provide 12 more step-free Underground and Overground stations. TfL will also install manual boarding ramps ‘’at all stations where it is physically possible to deploy them by July 2015”. On page 34, TfL list the 30 stations “where manual boarding ramps are due to be installed”. We were surprised to find on this list the name of 16 stations which already have manual boarding ramps (TfL announced this via a press release published more or less at the same time).
Turn-up-and-go assistance will introduced on two suburban rail lines (the Liverpool Street to Shenfield service and the Liverpool Street to Enfield Town) as part of the transfer between Abellio Greater Anglia to TfL at the end of 2015. Finally, step-free access will be available at Greenford, Tower Hill, Vauxhall and Whitechapel Tube stations from 2016 and seven step-free stations will be added to London Overground in 2015/2016 (an improvement on the six announced in the 2014 version of Your Accessible Transport Network).
Unfortunately the delivery of four London Underground stations has been delayed. Cassiobridge (previously called Ascot road), Watford Junction and Watford Vicarage Road (previously called Watford Hospital), all delivered as part of the Croxley Rail scheme, will no longer be accessible in 2016/2017 but in 2019/2020. It is the same for Holborn which is planned to be made accessible in 2023/2024 instead of 2021/2022.
However there is a good news for disabled and older people living around Queen’s Park station. The station has been added to the list of stations where stepfree access is pledged and will be accessible in 2019/2020: this is still a long time to go.
Since 2014, TfL seems to have changed its position on bus stops. Indeed the mention of “all bus stops” on “Transport for London Road Network to be fully accessible” by 2015/2016 in the 2014 version of ‘Your Accessible Transport Network became “99%” in 2015.
The good news is that TfL will introduce 500 extra buses to increase the overall bus service frequencies on the network by 2020 (including 200 new Routemasters) – a move which should go some way to reducing overcrowding and easing the conflict over the wheelchair bay. Unfortunately, TfL will double the number of the New Routemasters (400) – by 2016. The New Routemasters have been criticised by disabled transport users because the wheelchair bay is not very large.
We are pleased to see that TfL is pledging to improve bus ramps across London. We have raised with TfL reports from our members that many bus ramps are too short and therefore steep, or have a steep kink in them, which puts wheelchair users at risk of falling backwards.
TfL says that ‘’while all ramps on the network meet legal requirements and standards, [they] will review this with an aim to standardise [their] specifications. When operators refurbish their buses, wheelchair ramp will be changed to improve access, and where new vehicles are purchased better ramps will be introduced.“
One of the biggest issues that TfA’s wheelchair and scooter using members raise with us is when drivers refuse to let them board when a buggy user is in the wheelchair space. With some buses, buggy users and wheelchair users can share the space. But on other buses, the space is so small that this becomes impossible, especially with bigger buggies and wheelchairs. This issue was recently heard in the High Court Doug pauley case.
So it was good to see that TfL have increased the size of their wheelchair bay for new buses entering the network and are planning to review their bus specifications (including wheelchair space) and “look at the general layout, including the positioning of poles and bell pushes to see how the space can be used more effectively to improve manoeuvrability for wheelchair users”.
Finally, TfL announced that they will refresh their campaign encouraging buggy users to make space for wheelchair users on buses, this year. We look forward to seeing the posters, and hope that they remind passengers and drivers alike that on all TfL buses, wheelchair spaces are for wheelchairs and mobility scooters
In 2014, we welcomed the promise that “Additional travel time for step-free journeys [will be] reduced by a quarter” by 2020/2021. We were concerned by the fact that this has disappeared on the 2015 version. TfL told us that it is still part of their plan and they just forgot to mention it in this document!
TfL also praises ‘Fit for the Future’, its Tube ‘modernisation’ programme. This has already started, with tickets offices closures and staff moving to the ticket hall. TfA has previously attacked the cutting of 900 staff as this reduces the assistance available for disabled transport users. TfA’s member Mike Theobald, who has hearing impairment, remind us that ‘’Every time a [station] ticket office closes I lose the facility of a hearing loop system”.
The document fails to address a big concern for disabled and older who have mobility impairments: the issue of lifts being out of order. As well as planned lift closures due to refurbishment, there has recently been a rise in lift closures due to staff shortages.
TfL acknowledge ‘concerns’ and explain that “Lifts are put out of order as a safety precaution if there is a problem at the station, such as an evacuation”. They say that they will ensure that more staff are available to “assist customers, and so when there are shortages at outer stations, [They] will let [their] customers know in real time.” The lack of ambition here is shameful: lack of ‘real-time’ information is not the main problem; the problem is being locked out of the Tube! We hope to see progress on this important matter.
Interestingly, they mention improvement on their taxi policy when a lift or escalator is out of service, which so few staff members seem to know about. They will review this policy to make it “simple and more effective”. They also say that they will communicate those changes to the staff enabling them to “offer it more frequently”.
As TfA member Claire recently pointed out in her blog, people with a hidden impairment can find it difficult to get a seat. TfL will consider how they can “better communicate a ‘give up your seat’ message” and decide if they should introduce a priority seat card or badge (results by the end of 2015).
Taxi and private hire:
Following reports of some private hire passengers with assistance dogs being charged higher fares or refused, TfL will develop a campaign and engage with PHV operators and drivers.
We welcome this move, but would like to see TfL extend the same seriousness to tackling the overcharging and refusals that wheelchair users often experience.
Read the document:
There are lots of other improvements on this document which you can download (in various accessible version) on TfL webpage: https://tfl.gov.uk/transport-accessibility/equality-policy-and-future-plans .