From today, scooter users and powerchair users can use nineteen more London Underground stations which were previously inaccessible, due to the roll out of more manual boarding ramps.
Ramps have been installed at Kew Gardens; Richmond; Rickmansworth; Theydon Bois; Roding Valley; Epping; South Woodford; Hainault; Upney; Uxbridge; Hillingdon; West Finchley; Wood Lane; Farringdon; Caledonian Road; East Ham; Elm Park; Hounslow East and Mile End.
This is in addition to the sixteen stations which have had ramps from last year. Ramps close the gap between train and platform, enabling people to roll on and off the train.
Some of these ramps enable transport users to use the station in one direction only (e.g. South Woodford); others enable changing line where this was not possible before (e.g. Mile End). Some (e.g. Uxbridge) enable stepfree access to one line but not to all lines, while others (e.g. East Ham) provide full access to all station platforms! So be sure to check before you travel.
The ramps were first used during the Olympics and Paralympics, though at the time, TfL deemed them ‘temporary manual ramps’ Transport for All activists campaigned vigourously for the ramps to remain and to be rolled out to further stations. Many wrote to the Mayor; took their local journalist on a journey or even sang access carols to the Mayor at People’s Question Time.
Several TfA members have been able to use their local station for the first time because of the ramp, or have found that their journeys have been considerably shortened. Sulaiman Khan used to take expensive taxis to get to Stratford, but now regularly uses Woodford station. Using a ramp does not require advanced booking (unlike on National Rail). Instead, travellers notify a member of staff who can radio ahead to request a member of staff to meet the person with a ramp at the right carriage, at the station where they wish to disembark. TfL have posted a useful video about how the ramps work here.
Whilst there have been a few incidents where the message has not got through, by and large the system seems to be working well. Our advice to anyone who finds that there is no member of staff ready when they arrive at their desination station is to press the emergency button – and to complain so that the station can sort out their communication or staffing problem!
Transport for All have previously been concerned about the lack of publicity about manual boarding ramps: previously, there was no signage advertising the ramps and most publicity was online, or through the stepfree Tube map which is only available on request from ticket offices. We found that many wheelchair users remained unaware that their travel options had opened up in this way.
So we’re delighted that TfL have pledged to advertise the ramps with posters at stations, and are also using Journey Planner to highlight the new ramps.
However, stations remain where a platform to train gap prevents disabled people using the train – for example at Barking and at Kilburn. We will continue to press for ramps to be rolled out to all stations that need them.
You can access a map showing the location of all thirty five stations with manual boarding ramps here.