Disabled campaigners have welcomed the mayor of London’s decision to publish plans for providing step-free access to seven inaccessible stations on the capital’s Crossrail project.
The mayor, Boris Johnson, had previously suggested that he would ensure step-free access at all seven stations, but he and the Department for Transport (DfT) – the project’s co-funders – have now published detailed plans for how this could be carried out.
Their report sets out “practical, workable solutions” that could be implemented at Seven Kings, Maryland, Manor Park, Hanwell, Iver, Taplow and Langley.
But neither the government nor the mayor have yet explained how the £30 million work will be paid for. They say they are “currently looking at funding options to pay for these improvements”.
The “preferred options” will see new footbridges at four stations, and new lifts at all seven. Detailed designs for the seven schemes are due to be completed by the middle of next year.
Transport for London (TfL) figures suggest the seven schemes could benefit at least 35,000 disabled and older people and families with children under the age of four who live near the stations.
The new report is a significant success for Transport for All (TfA), the user-led accessible transport charity that has been campaigning to persuade Crossrail, a TfL subsidiary, to make every one of its stations accessible.
Lianna Etkind, TfA’s campaigns coordinator, praised the “tireless campaigning” of disabled and older activists from across London who had been “outraged” at the prospect of the new line being “out of bounds to disabled people”.
But she said: “This is not a done deal and we will be keeping up the pressure to ensure there is funding for a step-free Crossrail by the time it opens.”
She added: “A fully step-free Crossrail would be transformative for disabled and older Londoners, opening up work opportunities and enabling us to get out and enjoy all that the capital has to offer.
“We urge DfT and TfL to swiftly secure the funding to ensure Crossrail becomes an inclusive rail line that Londoners can be proud of.”
Jade Sempare, a disabled person who lives near Maryland station, said: “I’ve friends in other boroughs I’d like to see more often and if Crossrail is made accessible, that will be much simpler.
“At the moment, to get to work, I generally struggle with buses or pay for taxis. A step-free Crossrail would make me feel more independent.”
TfA was furious last year when Crossrail began describing itself as “the new high frequency, convenient and accessible railway for London and the South East”, when seven of the stations were not going to be accessible to those with mobility impairments.
The Crossrail route will serve 40 stations, connecting Reading and Heathrow airport in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, and will be fully operational by 2019. TfL insists that the Crossrail train fleet will be built to the “latest standards of accessibility”.
Johnson said: “This report sets out workable solutions for step-free access at all Crossrail stations and I will continue working alongside the DfT and TfL to help deliver that.”
Conservative transport minister Stephen Hammond said the publication of the report was “a step in the right direction”.
He said: “World class transport networks are a vital part in the national economic plan but they have to be accessible to all.
“This is why everyone in the Crossrail family supports the aim of making all of the route accessible.”
5 June 2014
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com