The promise to disabled people that every station on London’s much-delayed, £15 billion Crossrail project would be step-free from the moment it opens looks increasingly likely to be broken.
Four years ago, a two-year campaign by disabled and older people led to promises by Transport for London (TfL) that every one of its stations would be step-free, at least from street to platform-level.
Disabled campaigners had been furious when they found out that seven of the Crossrail stations would not be accessible to wheelchair-users, but their campaigning led to further funding from TfL and the government to ensure that every one of the 41 stations would be step-free.
But Disability News Service has established this week that at least one of these stations is unlikely to be step-free by the time the new line finally opens next year, with question-marks over several others and contracts for some of the projects to install lifts still to be awarded.
Transport for All, the user-led organisation that campaigns on accessible transport in London, first raised concerns last week, saying on Twitter that the news that some stations could open without being fully accessible to disabled and older people was “totally unacceptable”.
Stage four of Crossrail – now renamed the Elizabeth line – which will see trains running into central London from Shenfield in Essex, is due to open in May next year.
But work by Network Rail to make Ilford and Romford stations step-free still does not have a completion date, while it is seeking funding from the government’s Access to All scheme to install a lift at one of the platforms at nearby Brentwood, due to “technical challenges”.
There are also question-marks over whether work being led by TfL to make Maryland, Manor Park and Seven Kings on this eastern branch step-free will be completed in time for its planned opening next spring.
Stage five of the scheme, with trains running from the west into central London, is also beset with delays, with the current date for opening now not likely until December 2019.
Work to make Acton Main Line, Hayes and Harlington, Southall, West Ealing, Ealing Broadway and West Drayton step-free has been delayed, with Network Rail unable to provide any completion dates for the work, although it says it is “underway”.
TfL work to install lifts at Hanwell, Iver, Langley and Taplow, on the same western stretch of the line, is also not due to be completed until the end of next year.
The central section of the line, with its 10 new stations and tunnels, has been delayed from next month until next autumn at the earliest, although all these new stations will be step-free from street-level to train when they eventually open.
Network Rail said the delays with step-free work were largely because “design work has taken longer than envisaged to incorporate the upgrades suggested by local authorities and communities”, while “some elements of the tender review process for the main ticket hall works have taken longer than expected as we seek to ensure maximum value for money for the public purse”.
A Network Rail spokesman added: “We do not yet know if there is a change to the target dates for Stage 4 (Shenfield into the central section) and Stage 5 (Reading into central section) so at this stage it is not possible to say what will be complete by the time the Elizabeth line actually opens.”
A TfL spokeswoman said: “There were some issues with the design of lifts at stations in the east.
“This, combined with the limited access time on stations to complete the work, has led to some delays in the delivery.
“The vast majority of the work at the stations takes place during planned weekend closures throughout the year to enable staff to work safely.”
She added: “The Elizabeth line will completely transform the accessibility of the transport network for passengers across London and the south east.
“All 41 stations will be step-free to platform level, staffed from first to last train, with a ‘turn up and go’ service offered to anyone needing assistance.
“All of the parties involved – TfL, Network Rail, Crossrail Ltd and the Department for Transport – remain 100 per cent committed to delivering these benefits.
“We continue to work closely with Network Rail, who are working to deliver vital accessibility improvements at some of the stations on the above-ground parts of the route to the east and west of the central section.”
Picture: One of the trains that will run on the Elizabeth line
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