Planned cuts to hundreds of jobs across London Underground could make it harder for disabled passengers to secure the assistance they need to use the service, say campaigners.
Three organisations that campaign on disability issues – London Visual Impairment Forum (LVIF), Transport for All and Inclusion London – have written to the mayor, Boris Johnson, saying they are “greatly concerned” about the proposed cuts.
They believe the job losses could “seriously undermine the mobility of older and disabled people in the capital”.
Their letter says: “Whilst we understand that budgets are tight our concerns centre around the impact on the level of assistance that will then be available to older and disabled people. We are also concerned about the implications for personal security.”
They say many disabled people rely on London Underground staff assistance to use ticket machines, negotiate barriers and access platforms, and during service disruptions and emergencies, while many disabled people feel safer if they know there are staff around to call on if needed.
Transport for London (TfL) is planning to cut up to 800 posts. It says most of them will be ticket office positions.
A TfL spokesman said that only one in 20 journeys involved any interaction at a ticket office window, while it wants to “deploy staff more visibly in stations where they can more easily assist passengers”.
He said all stations “will continue to be staffed at all times while trains are operating”, and added: “The safe operations of our network remains at the top of our priorities and these changes will improve our performance still further.”
But LVIF, Inclusion London and Transport for All said that some disabled people were unable to use automatic ticket machines and would continue to need assistance from staff in ticket offices.
They said their concerns “should be addressed in detail” before they could be reassured that staff would still be available to meet the needs of disabled people after the job cuts.
They pointed to the example of a disabled woman who had reported her experience of separate journeys through three tube stations. “In none of these stations were staff visible and she was unable to find anyone to offer advice or assistance.
“Whereas she normally feels relaxed and confident when using the underground, on these occasions she felt frightened and vulnerable.”