A new report by members of the London Assembly shows that Transport for London (TfL) is “dragging its feet” in upgrading to a modern, accessible transport network, say disabled activists.
The assembly’s transport committee says the access problems on London’s public transport network are “simply unacceptable”, while current proposals for improving access on the tube, buses and trains are “too modest”.
The report says that mayor Boris Johnson and TfL need to “take every opportunity to identify and secure further funding” to improve access at stations and bus stops.
The committee points to low-cost measures that could improve access, such as allowing manual ramps on the tube network and involving disabled people in training bus drivers.
And it says TfL should explain how its proposed staff cuts at tube stations will impact on people with mobility impairments.
The report says there are 890,000 Londoners with reduced mobility (including parents with buggies), but less than a quarter of tube stations (61 of 270) are step-free from street to platform.
Only a third of 300 rail stations have step-free access from street to platform, and although all London buses now have ramps, only half of bus stops meet all three of TfL’s criteria for accessibility.
According to current plans, only two-thirds of bus stops will be fully accessible by 2018, while only 27 per cent of tube stations and fewer than half of rail stations will be step-free from street to platform.
But the report does point out that, of the 37 stations on London’s new Crossrail route, 31 should have step-free access from street-level to platform.
Transport for All (TfA), the accessible transport charity, said the report “does a great job of highlighting that there are a number of relatively inexpensive, simple steps that can be taken which would have a big impact on disabled people’s ease of travel”.
Lianna Etkind, TfA’s campaigns and outreach coordinator, said: “The battles that disabled and older Londoners face every time they want to use the bus or train are not an inevitable part of being old or disabled: they are the result of TfL’s continued foot-dragging in upgrading to a modern, accessible transport network fit for purpose.”
A Transport for London spokesman denied that it was “foot-dragging”, and said it was “already taking forward improvements in many of the areas referred to by the committee”, and already had “the most accessible bus network in the UK”.
He said the recommendations were being closed examined and that it was “committed to providing a strategic, accessible transport network”.
But he added: “Some things cost a lot of money and that’s money that doesn’t exist. In a perfect world, every station would have lifts and would be fully accessible. Given that that is not a possibility, we are trying to do everything we can.”