13 Dec 2012

Disability transport protest ramps up

Disability rights campaigners say more ramps are needed to make London’s transport accessible – but Channel 4 News understands they could be in line for an early Christmas present from travel bosses.

Protesters sang carols in Stratford to call for better tube access.

On Wednesday, protesters gathered outside Stratford Town Hall in London to call for better access to the capital’s transport network.

To give their demonstration a festive feel, the protesters – lead by Transport for All – sang accessibility-themed Christmas carols from O Come All Ye Wheelies to “Manual ramps” to the tune of Jingle Bells.

They were there to try to persuade London Mayor Boris Johnson, who was speaking at an event at the town hall, that more work needs to be done to open up London.

Public transport isn’t public until we can all use it. Lianna Etkind, Transport for All

During the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, manual ramps were provided to 16 underground stations in a bid to make the Games the most accessible ever. The ramps were a huge success and many disabled passengers used the underground for the first time ever. Transport bosses told the Channel 4 News No Go Britain team earlier this year that they would try to keep them in place in the long-term – although they did not make any promises.

The protesters said that it was essential that the ramps remained in place and moreover, that more needed to be done to make the underground accessible for all. Many stations on the ageing Tube network are still extremely difficult to access for wheelchair users, and Transport for All said more ramps were a cheap, quick solution at many locations.

Gold medal-winning Paralympian Sophie Christiansen has lent her support to the campaign.

“The introduction of 16 manual boarding ramps introduced for the Olympics and Paralympics were a quantum leap for disabled people’s right to use the Tube,” she said.

Watch: Reggie Greaves tells Channel 4 News why the ramps are so important.

Early Christmas present?

“But another 16 stations remain out of bounds to us, simply because boarding ramps have not been installed. The mayor must not stop halfway with ramp installation on the London Underground. A manual boarding ramp at every station where a gap between train and platform prevents wheelchair users from getting on and off the train will be an Olympic and Paralympic legacy London can be proud of.”

Transport for All’s campaigns co-ordinator Lianna Etkind added: “We commend the mayor on introducing manual ramps but he must not leave the job half done…Public transport isn’t public until we can all use it.”

However, there could be some good news for the campaigners. Channel 4 News understands that a Transport for London review of the ramps which is set to be published soon means they are likely to be kept permanently, and could even be rolled out further – although the final details are not clear yet.

A Transport for London spokesman said: “Before Christmas, we are planning to announce a huge range of measures aimed at improving access across the transport network, which we really think will represent a new kind of conversation with disabled people. We know the Games were just the beginning.”