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Step free access on the Transport for London network

Transport for London is hosting a consultation on step free access requesting views on why it is important to Londoners, which stations should have lifts and how TfL should prioritise.

What does step free mean?

Well, complete step free should mean that from street level, a person can access the train/tube station, go through the barriers, down onto the platform and make their way onto the train without encountering steps. Moreover, they should be able to get to their preferred destination, alight from the train, and reach the ticket level and exit the station, also without steps.

Whether the journey is being continued by bus or there was a connection via train, the individual can do so safely, with ease, and confidence. This can be via lifts or ramps, or even a combination of both. It is equally as important that these are easy to locate, and not tucked away, so accessing the lifts does not mean travelling to the other end of the station just to use them.

There are very few journeys which are step free throughout. Many blind and partially sighted people have told us that their journeys oftentimes end up taking much longer than they need to be because of this. Travellers are forced to firstly travel to a station that is step free – which could be either by foot, bus, or taxi, increasing both journey time and cost, even before the journey has even begun. This could be because their nearest station has no lift, very long escalators, or a wide gap between the train and the platform. Wide gaps can make it challenging to get on trains which can increase travel anxiety, as can lack of assistance at unmanned stations.

Step free and escalators

Bhavini Makwana, London Vision’s Engagement Manager, has a Guide Dog who is not escalator trained, so step free is very important to her. She has arrived at stations where there are only escalators, some very long such as Angel and Holborn tube stations. When planning her journey, she had been informed that both stations were step free, and upon arriving at them, discovered that they were not. “In these situations, we have been reassured by staff that the station I wish to travel to is step free and only when arriving to the station in question, I find out that it is not accessible for us, making me feel very disappointed, and diminishes my faith in the Turn up and Go (TUAG) system”.

It is vital that step free stations are communicated and publicised in travel apps, maps and staff should be aware, so planning a journey can be made with all the correct information in mind which in turn can increase confidence, independence, reduce time to travel and allow the Turn up and go scheme for others to use who need it most.

Travelling with children

There have been improvements over the years. More step free access would have helped Bhavini when her children were younger – travelling with a pushchair and toddler can be challenging for anyone, but it is even more so while blind. As Bhavini says, travelling with her children wasn’t something she could do often;

“Only certain stations would have lifts, but not always to all the platforms, some stations had stairs to access the stations, and others no ramps or lifts which meant very long journeys on busses”.

Autism, sight loss and other disabilities and step free journeys

Escalators can also be a barrier for people with autism and sight loss, and for people who suffer from Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS). The combination of sight loss and autism can make maintaining balance a challenge while getting on and off escalators, and escalators can trigger distressing visual hallucinations in CBS sufferers.

Step free journeys are important to wide groups of people, and not just wheelchair users. Do step free stations and journeys make London more accessible for you? Let Transport for London know: share your views on why a step free journey is important to you, by completing the consultation.

There are many ways to share your views:

Respond to the consultation here – Link to Survey

Call – 020 3054 6037  or email – haveyoursay@tfl.gov.uk

If you would like to share your views on why Step Free is important to you, we can share with TfL on your behalf, please email bhavini.makwana@londonvision.org or call 0203 761 3651

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