Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Again, not all the story

Posted in Infrastructure, London, Other general stuff about railways, Politics by Chairman Pip on 24 August 2010

Last night, there was a report on the BBC’s London News regarding the accessability of the Underground network for wheelchair users, most specifically in the area that will be used for the Olympics. Now, I have no wish to overly criticise BBC London, but they did use the highly emotive spectacle of a man with muscular dystrophy and his three carers making a journey on the Central line from Wanstead to Stratford, the main interchange for the Olympic Park. Of course it isn’t nice to see someone in a wheelchair having to be physically hauled on and off the train owing to the step and the gap between the door and the platform. However, first of all the Central line was not designed to be wheelchair accessible or step-free when built, and Wanstead is not one of the stations on the network that has had that kind of conversion – the Central line platforms at Stratford are of a similar vintage. Although these have had some degree of conversion, London Underground have accepted that they are not as good as other, new build stations. This can be seen through this document, which shows not only which stations on the network have step-free access, but also the levels of access that they have. Every station listed as having step-free access is given both a letter and a colour code – the letter indicates the gap between the train and the platform, while the colour shows the height of the step from the train to the platform. On this map, Stratford (Central line) is shown as Red C, which is the worst possible to get as it is going to maximum gap and height. However, Stratford (Jubilee line), a new build section, is shown as Green A, the best possible with minimum height and gap. But there is no mention of this on the BBC report. Of course, it would be best if the entire network could be accessed by people in wheelchairs as easily as those that aren’t. And it is bad that this man with muscular dystrophy, who had little use of his hands, was unable to use the lift at Stratford because the weight of him, his wheelchair and one carer overloaded the lift – that is a major fault on the part of TfL when they rebuilt the station. But it does seem so often the case now that the BBC, in spite of its Royal Charter stating that it should be entirely independent of government or private influence, deems it necessary to side with causes and display those against whom those causes (in this case embodied by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign) have a grievance. And that isn’t independent.

“‘Transport Access’ letting London down for 2012”

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