TfL is keeping wheelchair boarding ramps at 16 tube stations for a few more months, at least.
Ramps help wheelchair users get over the gap between platform and train and have, unsurprisingly, been popular with disabled people using the underground during the Games. (Earlier this year wheelchair user John Thornton put together his own map of accessible London stations. The results… well, we’d say they’ll surprise you, but they probably won’t.) Ramps are available at Hammersmith, King’s Cross St Pancras, West Ham, Westminster, Southfields, Wimbledon, Earl’s Court, Fulham Broadway, Stratford, Woodford, Oxford Circus, Queen’s Park, Edgware, Morden, Finchley Central and Stockwell.
The move isn’t guaranteed to be permanent, though. Over this next few months TfL will conduct a review into ramp use, looking at benefits to customers, reliability, cost, level of usage and – interestingly – potential locations for future use. If you use a wheelchair, try and pay a visit to these stations as we’re potentially in a use-it-or-lose-it situation.
We can forsee another slight problem, however. These ramps need a member of staff on hand to get them into position (unlike, say, the platform humps at certain stations). TfL went all out on staffing during the Games but we’re now back to normality, and it’ll be harder to find someone who can help. The Guardian has been running some interesting articles about how Paralympic London isn’t quite the same as day-to-day London, with gold medal winning Sophie Christiansen pointing out:
Access is horrendous in London… the Paralympics has improved London transport in terms of the number of helpers. But in terms of actual physical access, they haven’t done anything.
Hopefully TfL will decide the ramps are a long-term necessity and they’ll not just stay, but be extended across the network. Because there’s just no point in having had 11 days of equality, where London showed the world just the start of how things should be done, only to slip back to the old status quo.