Disabled and older transport users have warmly welcomed the creation of a new £75m fund to speed up the process of improving accessibility on the Underground network. This injection of cash will allow for the installation of new lifts at around a dozen stations in the next decade. The news was announced at the TFL Accessibility Show that took place at the Excel Centre recently.
This announcement came at the same time as the fantastic news that 30 Crossrail stations will be step free from the time of opening. We have been campaigning on this for a number of years and are delighted that the hard work and perseverance of our members has paid off. The new London Underground fund will match other contributions from local councils and property developers and will focus on improving access at priority locations that will make the biggest difference. Some of the stations that could be made accessible include Mill Hill East, Newbury Park, Osterley, West Brompton and White City.
Both the Mayor and London Underground have shown a clear commitment to improve accessibility across the capital’s transport network. With around three quarters of the Tube out of bounds to those who can’t do steps, there is still considerable work that needs to be done. But it is reassuring for disabled Londoners to see that money and effort is going into making the Underground fit for the 21st century.
The idea of match funding for access upgrades is not a new one – the Department for Transport, when judging applications for Access for All funding, takes into account the availability of third party match funding. Three London rail stations recently successful in their Access for All applications using match funding for access schemes are Tottenham Hale, Streatham and Whitton.
Furthermore, Harrow Council has committed to invest £3m into stepfree access at Harrow on the Hill station – where TfL has suggested that further funding could be generated by developing TfL-owned assets, for example, building on the station car park. The funding for step-free access at Tower Hill Station in East London were similarly funded by a hotel development on the site. Waltham Forest have also supported making Blackhorse Road station stepfree using Section 106 funds (from developer contributions negotiated as part of the planning process).
Mayor Boris Johnson said:
“The Tube was built at a time when accessibility was not top of the priority list and that’s something we’ve long been battling to rectify. Great progress has been made in making an ever-growing number of stations step free, and while the picture is far from perfect, this injection of cash is another step in the right direction.”
Mike Brown, Managing Director of London Underground, said:
“Through the creation of this £75 million fund we are using innovative ways to find the means of going further faster. We are confident that the cooperation we’re already seeing from third parties will continue to grow, so that together we can build a transport network more accessible for London residents and visitors alike.”
From the installation of more lifts to the introduction of manual boarding ramps, Tube accessibility has come a long way in the last 10 years. Hopefully in the next decade we can take accessibility to the next level, so that people with reduced mobility are able to use the Tube with more freedom and independence.