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TFL’s contribution to an accessible London… Good enough?

Getting around London in rush hour is hard enough for most, but those with a mobility disability, I would argue that it is near impossible.  My recent discovery of the lack of disabled access in the London underground and particularly in Zones One and Two is shocking.

I personally felt a fraction of this inconvenience recently following surgery on one of my feet.  Being on crutches and battling my way through crowds with the fear that someone would stamp on my foot and push back my recovery was a risk I did not want to take.  But living in South London and having to commute to North London, I had little choice.

Once I became more mobile the Ubers had to stop and my daily struggle battling against what could only be described as a stampede of commuters left me feeling anxious.  I can only imagine what that is like for someone with a permanent mobility disability.

I was shocked to learn of the lack of accessibility in the London Underground.  It is something that I, luckily, have never had to worry about before.  Despite London Bridge having just undergone a huge refurbishment the accessibility between the Jubilee Line and Northern Line was not addressed – it is clearly a problem.  The lift provided takes you out of the station, you then have to make your way back into the station, via a different entry to change Lines.  Trying to avoid the stairs adds an extra 20 minutes onto your journey and is highly inconvenient

The alternative?  Try to meander up the stairs and avoid the suits running up and down… whilst on crutches.  And this is one of the stations advertised as having disabled access!

The problems at London Bridge are minor in comparison.  At least there is a lift.  Take a look at the tube map on the Northern Line and you will find that only three stations out of 16 in Zone One have step free access from the train to street or platform to street.

Stations such as Angel, Moorgate and Old Street – some of the busiest stations have no step free access.  Companies are rolling out diversity programmes to try and promote equality, yet if you can’t get to work in the first place this makes the challenges even greater.

Luckily for me, my disability was short term and temporary.  Even at its worst, with considerable effort, I could nervously drag myself up the stairs on my crutches.  However, it opened my eyes to how difficult living and working in London is for people with mobility disabilities.

Disabled people have a right to independence and autonomy that is simply not serviced or supported by our current system.

TFL state that they are making more stations accessible, but progress is slow in an old and cash-strapped-system.  For example, Victoria Station, one of the busiest tube and national rail stations in London only went step free in August 2018.,

The current aim is that “by spring 2024, 38% of the Tube network will be step-free – compared to 28% in 2018”[1]… is that really good enough?

Evangeline Ashby is a paralegal in the Adult Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp.  If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or you are concerned about treatment received, contact Evangeline free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4816 or at evangelineashby@boltburdonkemp.co.uk.  Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Spinal Injury team will contact you.  Find out more about the Adult Brain Injury team.

[1] https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/improvements-and-projects/step-free-access

 

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