Tube access ordeal raises new fears for London 2012


A disabled businessman was pulled off a tube carriage in his wheelchair and told the underground network was “not accessible to wheelchair-users”, just minutes after being helped onto the carriage by station staff.

Adam Lotun had booked assistance through Transport for London’s helpline for his trip from Wimbledon station to Earl’s Court on the District line.

But just minutes after being helped onto the carriage, with the aid of a ramp, he was surrounded by three members of station staff who grabbed his wheelchair without any explanation and pushed him back onto the platform.

Their refusal to allow him to travel on the tube meant he missed an important business meeting.

Lotun pointed out that the only support he would have needed at the end of his journey at Earl’s Court station would have been a member of staff with another ramp to help him onto the platform, as the station itself is wheelchair-accessible from street to platform.

Lotun said the treatment he received raises new questions about the capital’s readiness to play host to huge numbers of disabled people during the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

He said: “With London 2012 looming on the horizon, I believe that my story is a very important episode and should be investigated at the highest possible level, and strategies, training and policies developed to ensure that Transport for London and London Underground are not placed at risk for a sizeable claim for damages as a result of disability discrimination.”

The incident happened in November 2010 but Lotun has only received an apology – and a small “goodwill payment” – from Transport for London in the last few weeks.

A TfL spokeswoman apologised for the incident, and said: “Although District line services run to Wimbledon, TfL does not manage or staff the station.

“We have asked South West Trains, who do, to investigate what happened to Mr Lotun while at the station and will work with them to find a way forward to avoid this scenario happening in future.”

She said it appeared that South West Trains staff mistakenly helped Lotun onto the train without checking first that staff were available at the other end to help him off. They removed him when they were unable to obtain the necessary confirmation from Earl’s Court station.

The spokeswoman said TfL would be introducing more accessible trains on the District line from 2013, which “with platform modifications will provide level access from platform to train”.

She added: “Although this will not be complete on the District line by 2012, we are currently working on plans to ensure that wheelchair-users travelling during the Olympics will be able to board and exit trains easily and safely.”

3 November 2011

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