London’s mayor has appointed two user-led organisations to improve the way staff on the capital’s tube network provide assistance to disabled and older passengers.
Inclusion London and Transport for All will deliver the training at five “centres of excellence”, at Stratford, King’s Cross St Pancras, London Bridge, Green Park and Westminster stations.
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said: “Disabled and older passengers tell us that staff who are disability equality trained and confident to assist them make all the difference to a journey.
“That’s why Inclusion London and Transport for All are excited about this new initiative and we look forward to providing an enhanced level of training to London Underground trainers and key staff at the five centres for excellence – developed in consultation with disabled and older Londoners who use the tube and delivered by disabled trainers.”
Transport for London (TfL) – which runs London’s public transport network – also announced that it was rolling out the use of boarding ramps to 40 extra platforms and 19 more stations this summer.
TfL introduced the ramps as a temporary measure during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – across 16 stations – and they proved so popular with disabled passengers that they were retained after the games ended.
The announcement means the portable ramp scheme will soon cover more than half of the 66 stations that are step-free from street to platform.
It will mean that 149 of the 195 platforms that are step-free from street to platform will soon also be accessible from street to train, thanks to the ramps – which bridge the gap between platform and train – as well as existing raised platform sections, low-floor trains and other improvements.
Introducing more of the ramps was one of the commitments made last December by TfL and the mayor, Boris Johnson, in Your Accessible Transport Network, their plan for improving access to public transport across the capital.
Transport for All – which has “campaigned vociferously” for TfL to keep the ramps and for them to be rolled out to other stations – said the news was “a real boost to our right to get out and about and enjoy London”.
Wheelchair-user Sulaiman Khan, who has also campaigned on the issue, said the announcement was “great news”.
He said: “Ramps will give older and disabled people more freedom and independence to get on with our lives and not be second-class citizens.”
He said he had previously used the tube about once a year, but since the ramps were introduced he has travelled into London using the underground on more than 50 occasions.
He said: “Before, I’d have to take a taxi, but now it’s much easier, faster and cheaper. Having ramps at more stations will enable me to travel more spontaneously and with more flexibility.”
TfL is also improving signage that shows step-free routes through stations, and has launched a new Twitter feed (@TfLAccess) to update disabled passengers on service improvements and advise them of any changes – such as lifts or escalators that are out of order – that may affect their journeys.
Among other improvements, a “world-leading” system on the Victoria line now gives real-time visual information on disruptions for passengers who cannot hear the driver’s announcements.
Johnson said: “London now has one of the most accessible public transport networks in the world. But it’s not perfect and we must go further.
“That’s why we’re investing in imaginative solutions to make further improvements.
“More boarding ramps and better signage, information and staff training, are concrete examples of our commitment to make the transport network as accessible as possible.”
TfL said that 27 more underground and overground stations would be made step-free over the next eight years, while it was applying for Department for Transport funding to extend this number.