31 Aug 2012

Paralympic legacy set for London tube stations

Tube bosses tell Channel 4 News they will try to keep and even expand a network of accessible ramps for disabled passengers which were only expected to remain for the Paralympic and Olympic Games.

Paralympic legacy set for London tube stations (Transport for All)

London’s aim was to deliver the most accessible Olympic and Paralympic Games ever held. Millions of pounds were invested to make the transport network in the capital easier to use for disabled passengers.

One key initiative involved providing 16 key tube stations with manual boarding ramps, including King’s Cross St Pancras, Oxford Circus and Earl’s Court. The ramps help wheelchair and scooter users to board trains more easily at stations where there is a gap between the train and the platform, but which are otherwise accessible.

There are 66 step-free stations on the 270-station underground network, but there is still an issue with actually boarding the train at many locations, which the ramps solve where they are available.

We want to keep them and are looking now at how that will work after the Paralympics. TfL spokesman

However, there was one problem – the ramps were originally seen as “temporary” and Transport for London (TfL) only said they would look at their use beyond the Games “if” they were popular.

However, after pressure from campaigners and the media, TfL confirmed to Channel 4 News that the ramps are now set for a more permanent future in London.

“We want to keep them and are looking now at how that will work after the Paralympics,” a spokesman said.

The commitment will mean a lot to the hundreds of passengers who have used the ramps during the Games. Many disabled people have been able to travel by tube for the first time in many years.

Zara Todd, who has helped Channel 4 News put Olympics travel to the test already, said the ramps had been “revolutionary”. Because she can now use her local station, the ramps have cut Todd’s commute by a third.

“I’m really glad they are going to keep them – it’s a great sign for the Paralympic legacy and if they continue to work in the way they are at the moment, this could go some way towards making transport more equal for disabled people, especially wheelchair users, in London. Obviously there is still some way to come but this is a step in the right direction,” she told Channel 4 News.

She said one positive aspect of the ramps was how well they had worked thanks to the positive attitudes from staff. Rather than having to pre-book the ramps, tube staff assisted users with ramps when asked and then called ahead to the destination station to ensure a member of staff was waiting for the passenger when they disembarked.

Pressure group Transport for All (TfA) has campaigned for TfL to keep the ramps, and even written to the Mayor Boris Johnson. The group’s director Faryal Velmi said they were delighted that the ramps were staying – but warned that there was still more to do.

“It’s great to have won on the issue of the ramps remaining – the next battle is for them to be rolled out to other stations,” she said.

TfA estimates that around 30 other station platforms could be made accessible with manual ramps.

TfL told Channel 4 News that part of its assessment of the future of the ramps would “include whether there are any additional locations where we could deploy them. In the meantime we are continuing to introduce new more accessible trains and rebuild key stations with additional lifts, platform humps, wide aisle gates, tactile paving and audio loops.”