Advertising watchdog to assess Crossrail’s ‘accessible railway’ claim


theweeksubDisabled campaigners have complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after managers of London’s £15 billion Crossrail scheme repeatedly described their project as an “accessible railway”, even though wheelchair-users will be barred from seven of its stations.

Crossrail, a subsidiary of Transport for London, describes itself on its Twitter account as “the new high frequency, convenient and accessible railway for London and the South East”, while a web search for the company brings up a similar description.

Although all of its new stations will offer step-free access from street to platform, Crossrail is refusing to provide lifts at seven existing, inaccessible rail stations (Hanwell, Manor Park, Maryland, Seven Kings, Taplow, Iver and Langley).

Of the 37 Crossrail stations, five will have no step-free access and two – Langley and Taplow – will only have it to the London-bound platform. Four of the stations will have more than 30 steps to reach the platform.

Transport for All (TfA), the user-led accessible transport organisation, launched its Crossrail: Access Denied campaign this week, in a bid to persuade the company to ensure the whole railway is accessible.

It is furious that Crossrail is bragging about its “accessible” railway on posters displayed at stations that will be inaccessible to wheelchair-users and others with mobility impairments.

TfA has filed a complaint with ASA, claiming the use of the “accessible” wording contravenes Crossrail’s legal duties on truthfulness.

Lianna Etkind, TfA’s campaigns coordinator, said: “When stations with no planned step-free access display posters boasting of Crossrail’s accessibility, it is at best ironic and at worst dishonest.

“We call on Crossrail to bring their plans into line with their claims, so Crossrail can truthfully claim to be an accessible railway we can all use with freedom and independence.”

An ASA spokesman said it would assess the TfA complaint and “judge whether there are grounds for an investigation”.

As part of its campaign, TfA is organising a protest on 31 August, the first anniversary of the opening of the London 2012 Paralympics.

Flash Bristow, a wheelchair-user who lives close to Maryland station in the London 2012 borough of Newham, said: “I used to use Maryland station to get to work, until my condition worsened and I couldn’t manage the steps any more.

“Just one year after the Paralympics, in Newham, an ‘Olympic’ borough, disabled people are being excluded. So much for the legacy.”

A Crossrail spokesman said the company would “comply with anything that ASA says”.

He said he agreed that not all of the railway was accessible to wheelchair-users, but insisted that Crossrail was within its rights to describe itself in the way it had because “the railway is accessible”.

He added: “I do not think we claim anywhere that all of the railway is accessible.”

Crossrail has blamed factors such as low passenger numbers and the “nearest accessible station being within a reasonable distance with alternative accessible transport available” for its decision to leave the seven stations inaccessible.

In a response to a Freedom of Information Act request, it added: “Crossrail will continue to support the feasibility work being carried out by other organisations at some of the above locations for the provision of step-free access.

“Crossrail will also amend its delivery programme where necessary in order to integrate with those schemes should they secure funding.”

20 June 2013