27 March 2012 London Mayor sets out transport access strategy
The challenges that disabled people face when using public transport have been frequently highlighted by Trailblazers. The End of the Line Transport report brought to light many of these issues and recent APPG meetings on rail travel and tourism have provided Trailblazers with the opportunity to quiz key figures from the transport industry.
Given the problems that the Trailblazers have identified when travelling specifically in London, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at this month’s Mayor of London Report entitled, ‘Taking forward the Mayor’s Transport Strategy Accessibility Implementation Plan’.
Here are some of the highlights:
- In time for the Olympic Games, Journey Planner “is being updated to enable customers to plan journeys with step-free access, not only from street to platform but throughout the whole journey, including from platform to train.” This will include the introduction of real-time information concerning out-of-service lifts to Journey Planner and possibly the adding of such information to tube station electronic boards.
- It is reported that more than 60% of bus stops are currently accessible (up from 29% at the end of 2007). This should rise to 70% by the end of 2012/2013.
- Step-free access (where it is possible to move from the street to platforms and between platforms without using steps) is currently available at 39% of all stops and stations. This should be increased to 47% by 2015.
- All newly built Crossrail stations will have step-free access. As part of Crossrail developments, a number of central line stations will be made step free, including Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street/Moorgate.
- Staff training on accessibility will continue and an accessibility-related training DVD, produced with help from Transport for All and Age UK, will be part of Bus driver training from July 2012.
The report does, therefore, outline some welcome improvements. However, there are still many concerns. As the report acknowledges, no viable solution has been identified to tackle the problem of boarding underground trains on curved platforms, resulting in many inaccessible stations. Furthermore, as the Trailblazers have reported, the vast majority of accessible underground stations are located outside of central London.
Whilst the report contains many desirable long term ambitions for improving access, it is acknowledged that these plans are as yet unconfirmed. It is a worry that in the current climate of austerity, the expensive cost of making Underground stations fully accessible will result in such important changes being delayed even further.
As called for by Trailblazers in the End of the Line report, accessibility must be placed at the heart of all future planning for trains, stations and platforms on the London Underground. Until this is done and until there is full accessibility in a much higher number of stations and bus stops, the Trailblazers network will continue to campaign for disabled people, as the Mayor’s report put it, to simply have the “the confidence to travel independently.” Despite the positive nature of the report, therefore, there is still a long way to go.