The response to the request which was submitted by Transport for All trustee Christiane Link showed that in 2013, step-free access was unavailable at accessible stations for nearly 500 hours over the year. On six occasions, passengers were forced to wait more than 10 hours before access was restored, with the longest wait more than 18 hours.
The stations which most frequently closed their lifts due to staff shortages were West Brompton and Wood Lane, which closed 40 times and 27 times respectively in 2013 due to staff shortage.
These are alarming figures and TfA is concerned that staff shortages could undermine the investment that has been made into making the Tube more accessible. In recent years this investment has seen more step free stations and interchanges, lifts and most recently manual boarding ramps. These measures have opened up the Underground network for many disabled and older people – with some using the Tube for the first time. A fact to be celebrated.
However plans proposed by the Mayor last month to cut 950 staff on the Tube could turn back the clock on these accessibility improvments; and further exerbate the problems highlighted in the FOI response. The question that is raised is what use is an accessible station when there are not enough staff to operate its accessible features?
Staff assistance is often essential for many disabled and older passengers to complete a Tube journey. This can include advice on accessible routes, operating manual boarding ramps that enable wheelchair and mobility scooter users to board trains or as a guide for visually impaired passengers. Having visible staff also make a difference when it comes to people feeling safe at stations.
Faryal Velmi, Director of Transport for All said: ‘We urge the Mayor to read this data and rethink his proposed cuts to Tube staff on the frontline. Please make savings elsewhere. These measures are not simply a re-organisation of staff at stations but will result in less staff across the network. We believe this will compromise accessibility and the ability of disabled and older passengers to travel freely and safely“