Plans to enable step-free access at over 20 London Underground stations have been shelved, drawing strong criticism from campaigners for accessible transport. Former mayor Ken Livingstone had promised that 45 stations would be step-free by 2013. Work will now be deferred at 22 of these, while another two will have only partial improvements. At several stations groundwork for the building of lifts has taken place, and £20 million has been spent on improvements to six stations, but further work will now be put on hold.
Transport for London (TfL) blamed the decision on the economic downturn and the collapse of underground maintenance company, Metronet. A spokesman for TfL said: ‘In order to have the money to continue with line upgrades, which will result in a 30 per cent capacity increase for all Londoners, some projects unfortunately could not proceed. The total budget for the six schemes that have been stopped was £92 million and this funding is simply not available.’
TfL has denied that abandoning the works has been a waste of money, claiming that ‘the enabling work started at these stations will not be wasted. It will still be of benefit if funds are available in the future to recommence these works.’
Faryal Velmi, director of Transport for All, which campaigns for accessible transport in London, said the decision shows that the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, does not see accessibility as a priority. She said: ‘We are very disappointed, as we feel that access plans have been the first victim of the economic climate. This is a really regressive move that postpones and delays an accessible Tube system for at least another generation.’
Of the 270 London Underground stations, only 58 offer step-free access from the platform to street level. This is to increase to 65 in time for the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.