I’m a volunteer at Transport for All and I use a manual wheelchair. I was recently asked to assist Transport for London’s research into their evacuation procedures, supported by the Fire Brigade for an hour on Wednesday 9th December, Brixton Tube Station at 2pm.
Transport for London is considering how easy it would be to evacuate wheelchair users in case of fire or other emergency.
As all people with restricted mobility who rely on the lift will know, in the event of a fire, you cannot use the lift and are stuck.
With two people supporting my chair and we went up the escalators a number of times, there was no problems at all. It was completely safe, easy and quick. I pushed myself onto the flat beginning section of the moving escalator. As the escalator began to climb, my front wheels were rested on one step, while my larger back wheels were on the next. Two people were behind me to support me as I was positioned at an angle. This support could easily have been given by one person.
I felt completely comfortable with the whole procedure, and to be honest I would be totally happy travelling up an escalator with a friend to support me. I have done so in the past when lifts have been broken. However, not everyone could manage this method and as yet there is no solution for people who use power chairs to use escalators in an evacuation.
I was told that if there is an emergency then I should go to the help point and press the information button. A member of staff will be able to see you via the CCTV from their control room and someone will assist me as soon as possible. There was also an Emergency button which you need to press only in emergency situation,
Brixton station now has one section of the platform raised to be level with the train. This means there is now step on or off the train, but a small gap of about 3 or 4 inches. The TFL staff told me this gap was left deliberately to accommodate new trains that are due to be introduced in 2010. A gap of this size is not a problem for me, but I know it is for other people, especially those who use power chairs.
TfL also told me that Kings Cross Station now has the raised platforms and is now step free apart from access to the Northern Line. However, I have yet to check this station, but I intend to do so within the next few days. Watch this space…..
Transport for All