The number of occasions on which disabled people were prevented from using step-free tube stations in London because of staff shortages has more than quadrupled since 2009, a Freedom of Information Act request has revealed.
Transport for All, the user-led disability rights group, said the figures were “an affront to disabled people’s right to travel”.
In 2009, London Underground stations were forced to close their lifts due to staff shortages on 51 occasions, according to the Transport for London (TfL) figures.
But in the first eight-and-a-half months of last year, there were 162 occasions on which a station shut its lifts, a closure rate more than four times higher than 2009.
In 2010, there were 142 closures, while there were 173 in 2011, but only 123 in 2012 – the year of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The figures were obtained by Christiane Link, director of the international media and accessibility company Ortegalink and herself a wheelchair-user.
She said: “I was surprised how often TfL was tweeting that a lift is out of service due to shortage of staff. That’s why I did the FoI request.
“I wanted to know if my feeling is right that it’s too often, and I think that’s what the figures show clearly. To cut more staff would make things even worse.”
Lianna Etkind, campaigns and outreach coordinator for Transport for All – which campaigns on accessible transport in the capital – said: “Disabled and older people should be able to travel spontaneously.
“Already, large swathes of the tube are out of bounds to those who can’t manage steps.”
Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor of London, announced last month that he planned to cut 950 London Underground station staff posts.
Etkind said: “We are extremely concerned that planned staff reductions will further reduce our ability to travel with the same freedom and independence as everyone else.
“TfL have invested millions in installing lifts, and it’s ridiculous when short-staffing means these lifts become unavailable. We urge the mayor to rethink his plans to reduce staff.”
The TfL officer who answered Link’s request told her: “We have staff at all stations while trains are running, offer a turn-up-and-go service for all customers and aim to ensure that the lift facilities are always available when the station is open.”
But she added: “However, there are occasions when there is no staff member present with
the necessary training for the lift to be in service.
“In some circumstances, for example where a member of staff is called away to attend an incident elsewhere, the lift must be taken out of service.
“We always advertise this immediately and work to restore service as quickly as possible.”
16 January 2014