Transport for London stays silent on tube ramp mystery


theweeksubA wheelchair-user has questioned why Transport for London (TfL) has suddenly stopped her and other disabled passengers from using a ramp to board trains at an underground station.

Until two weeks ago, Dr Ruth Bailey was using one of the portable ramps TfL is now using to improve access for wheelchair-users at some of its tube stations.

The ramps were retained at 16 stations after being used successfully during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, at stations that are step-free from street to platform level but where there is still a step up onto the train itself.

Because of the success of the scheme, the portable ramps are now being introduced at another 19 stations this summer.

Dr Bailey said staff had been travelling to the neighbouring station of Willesden Green to borrow a ramp every time she turned up at Kilburn. She said she had had no problems using the ramp to board the train since she began using the station last December.

But two weeks ago, she was shown an email by a member of station staff, explaining that she could no longer use the ramp at Kilburn because it was a health and safety risk, as the platform was higher than the train.

Phil Hufton, London Underground’s chief operating officer, said in a statement: “In order to provide level access between the platform and the trains, London Underground, in recent years, has successfully installed platform humps at a number of stations and last year they began using manual boarding ramps at 16 key locations for use during the London 2012 games. Ramps will be installed at a further additional 19 stations this year.”

He said that Kilburn was not one of the extra 19 stations chosen to benefit from portable ramps because the platforms there were higher than the trains, “which means that the current design of ramp is not suitable”.

He said this was a view endorsed by the Office of Rail Regulation.

He added: “TfL is actively investigating what can be done to solve this problem.”

But TfL has so far refused to explain publicly why the ramp cannot be used if a platform is higher than a train.

Dr Bailey said: “The chief operating officer at London Underground can’t provide a suitable manual ramp which would enable wheelchair-users to negotiate the eight inch drop between platform and train and he is responsible for the safety of passengers in the oldest and most complex underground system in the world.”

She said she had tried repeatedly to find out how the ramp was unsuitable, but had yet to receive an answer from TfL or the RMT rail union.

She said: “Given that not being able to use Kilburn underground effectively increases my travelling times just about anywhere, I need a good explanation. Without one it just feels like discrimination.”

She added: “If the ramp is unsuitable how come that at least two wheelchair-users have been boarding the train since the beginning of the year without a problem for staff, the travelling public or the wheelchair-user?”

She asked whether TfL thought it would be more hazardous for wheelchair-users to provide their own ramp – as at least one wheelchair-user she knows does – or to be lifted down onto the train, than use TfL’s own ramp.

TfL has yet to respond to this question.

4 July 2013