London’s mayor Boris Johnson has had to perform a humiliating climb-down, after promising on live television that the seven inaccessible stations on London’s £15 billion Crossrail scheme would be made step-free.
Johnson appeared to signal the sudden and major change of policy in an interview with disabled presenter Ade Adepitan, during Channel 4’s coverage of the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games on Sunday (28 July).
When asked by Adepitan, himself a retired Paralympian, when London’s transport system would be fully accessible, Johnson said: “I was really disappointed to discover that not all the Crossrail stations were originally planned with proper accessible lifts. They are going to be, Ade.
“We have decided that London, a city like ours, after the success we have had with the Paralympics and the way people did find it by and large very accessible, we have got to do better, particularly on the new, big projects.”
But since his comments, Johnson’s office has refused to confirm or deny the change of policy.
Today (1 August), it finally released a statement to Disability News Service which merely stated that the mayor “has made it clear that he wants Transport for London and Network Rail to look into additional opportunities to improve this further and to go beyond what is currently committed”.
This statement goes no further than a previous Crossrail statement which stated that it would “continue to support the feasibility work being carried out by other organisations at some of the above [seven] locations for the provision of step-free access”.
When asked whether Johnson’s pledge on Channel 4 was truthful, his spokeswoman said: “I have given you what I can give you.”
Disabled campaigners from Transport for All, the user-led accessible transport organisation, launched a campaign last month to persuade Crossrail, a subsidiary of Transport for London – and therefore under Johnson’s control – to make every one of its 37 stations accessible.
They were particularly angered that Crossrail has been describing itself as “the new high frequency, convenient and accessible railway for London and the South East”, when nearly one in five of the stations are not going to be accessible to those with mobility impairments.
Although all of its new stations will offer step-free access from street to platform, Crossrail has been 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 be step-free on the London-bound platform. Four of the stations will have more than 30 steps to reach the platform.
Transport for All welcomed Johnson’s original comments on Channel 4, and added: “This once in a generation new rail infrastructure will we estimate only cost 0.2 per cent of its £14.5 billion budget to make fully accessible.
“As we continue to lobby and work towards our day of action on Crossrail on 29 August, we will be demanding that the Department of Transport work with the mayor and Transport for London to deliver a fully accessible Crossrail that all Londoners can use. This will be a true Paralympic legacy.”
1 August 2013