The sun was shining yesterday as hundreds of people participated in our day of action for an accessible Crossrail.
Legacy torch relay
The day started early with disabled, older and community campaigners gathering in Hanwell in Ealing, and Seven Kings in Redbridge to start our Paralympic legacy torch relay. Both of these stations as well Manor Park and Maryland in Newham; and Iver, Langley and Taplow outside to the west of London will not have full stepfree access to platforms. Without a step free Crossrail link, travel between the stations will involve lengthy bus journeys for disabled and older people.
At Hanwell, 60 people joined to see off torch bearer Sally O’Connor, a veteran disability rights campaigner from Ealing. Local group Hanwell Community Forum as well as Age UK Ealing also mobilised for the day bringing along members. Both local MPs and councillors also turned up to offer support.
Across the capital In East London, TfA members congregated at Seven Kings stations. Under current Crossrail plans this station like Hanwell will not have full access. John Eliffe was the first torchbearer who went to Manor Park accompanied by campaigners from People First Waltham Forest. At Manor Park station – another of Crossrail’s inaccessible stations – they were met by a cheering crowd consisting of a local councillor and local disabled peoples’ group Action and Rights of Disabled People in Newham.
Jean Eveleigh and Flash Bristow carried the torch to Maryland, where Newham pensioner activist Hazel Watson took the torch to Stratford.
The final leg of the torch relay from Stratford through to Canary Wharf was made by Rio 2016 Paralympic hopeful Susan Cook.
Rally outside Crossrail Offices
Amongst the gleaming skyscrapers of the capital’s financial district, around 200 campaigners gathered outside the Crossrail offices and welcomed the torchbearers from east and west. Compered by performer Mik Scarlet, the crowd heard from numerous speakers – each saying why an accessible Crossrail was so vitally important. The theme running through most speeches was the scandal of building a brand new rail infrastructure costing billions of pounds without full access. Lambeth TfA member, Iman Saab held up a banner that read ‘I have a dream that one day disabled and older people will be able to travel with the same freedom as everyone else’.
Singer Rockinpaddy, who like Mik performed at the opening of the Paralympic Games in 2012, had the crowd singing along to three songs including one he had especially written for the Crossrail access campaign.
Towards the end of the rally, Programme Director for Crossrail, Andrew Mitchell came out to accept a placard signed by the participants of the rally which simply read ‘We want an accessible Crossrail now!
Despite being told he could not use the megaphone by one of his entourage, Mr Mitchell took it anyway to address the crowds. He said the campaign had a “well made point’ which he ‘understood fully“. He went on to say, “we are working with sponsors to see what we can do to address the last seven stations that aren’t accessible“. He finished by saying “we have five years“, indicating that there was still time to amend the original plans to launch Crossrail without full access.
Later in the day, Managing director of London Underground, Mike Brown, told the media: “Transport for London and the Department for Transport, the joint Sponsors of the Crossrail Project, aim to make the whole Crossrail route accessible.’ While still not a committment that the line will be accessible, the statement represented significant progress.
Later in the day Mayor of London, Boris Johnson also tweeted that he would ‘insist’ that Crossrail would be fully accessible. Both of these comments from senior movers and shakers behind Crossrail, indicate that TfA’s campaign has applied significant pressure on this issue.
Pan London mobility forum
In the afternoon, campaigners joined representatives from other borough disability organisations to attend the Pan London Mobility forum at City Hall. Hosted by Valarie Shawcross AM, Chair of the London Assembly Transport committee, the first part of the forum discussed what disabled and older Londoners would like Crossrail’s stations and trains should look like. Representatives from Transport for London who are designing and planning the future Crossrail stations were invited to consider people’s views. Suggestions included, humps for step free independent travel, signage throughout stations that is repeated at regular intervals, clean accessible toilets including Changing Places toilets, staff fully disability equality trained and visible at stations amongst others.
The latter half of the forum saw three campaigners talk about the access issues they had raised with transport providers. Sue Groves MBE, spoke about her successful liaison with South Eastern trains, Jeff Harvey spoke about his campaign to get a ramp at his local Tube station Kilburn and finally Hazel Watson told the forum about her experiences improving access to bus stops in Newham.
The forum was the culmination of a successful and inspiring day that has ratcheted up the pressure on Crossrail.
There was significant media coverage of our Crossrail access campaign.