Transport for London (TfL) announced this week that Crossrail would be step-free from street-level to the train at every one of its London stations from the day it opens in 2019.
The announcement 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.
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, but campaigners were furious when it emerged that seven stations – Seven Kings, Maryland, Manor Park, Hanwell, Iver, Taplow and Langley – would not be completely step-free.
But TfL and the London mayor, Boris Johnson, announced this week that they had secured funding to install step-free access at the four London stations – Seven Kings, Maryland, Manor Park and Hanwell – with the estimated £19 million funding to come from “efficiencies and some reallocation of the operating budget”.
TfA had been due to hold a protest event today (2 October), and was planning to let off alarm clocks to warn Johnson that time was running out to make Crossrail accessible from the day it opens.
But instead, disabled and older passengers gathered at London’s Custom House station on the Docklands Light Railway to celebrate the campaign victory, before travelling one stop to TfL’s Access for All event near Prince Regent station.
Following demonstrations last summer, both TfL and the Department for Transport (DfT) said they supported Crossrail becoming accessible, but Johnson failed at the time to commit to providing the £30 million needed to carry out the work.
Johnson said: “I have always made it clear that we must aim to make Crossrail fully step-free and it is great news that we can confirm funding from TfL’s budget for all the stations within London.
“It is fantastic that the DfT have also pledged their commitment to fund the remaining three stations outside London, and I look forward to working with the secretary of state to deliver a world class railway that is accessible for all.”
Lianna Etkind, TfA’s campaigns and outreach co-ordinator, said: “We are thrilled by the news that Crossrail’s London stations will now be accessible – a truly public transport system. This is a Paralympic legacy London can be proud of.
“Being able to use Crossrail isn’t just about access to transport: it’s about our ability as disabled and older people to participate in London life.”
She said 203 of London’s 270 tube stations were “out of bounds to anyone who can’t do stairs”, leaving many disabled people struggling to travel to work, visit friends and family, and “get out and about in the capital”.
She added: “Over the last two years, Transport for All members have campaigned tirelessly for Crossrail access.
“This is a big step forward for our ability to get out and about with the same freedom and independence as everyone else.”
TfA will now write to the Conservative rail minister Claire Perry to push for funding for the final three stations to be made accessible.
Meanwhile, TfL and Johnson have announced a new £75 million fund they say will speed up the rate at which the capital’s Tube network is made accessible – progress which the mayor’s Labour opponents have described as “painfully slow”.
The fund will enable new lifts at around a dozen more stations over the next 10 years, and will be on top of the 28 London Underground and London rail stations which TfL had already committed to making step-free by 2024.
The new funding will be used to match contributions from local councils and property developers for improvements to step-free access.
Johnson said: “The Tube was built at a time when accessibility was not top of the priority list and that’s something we’ve long been battling to rectify.
“Great progress has been made in making an ever-growing number of stations step free, and while the picture is far from perfect, this injection of cash is another step in the right direction.”
2 October 2014