TfL has launched a public consultation on the future of step-free access at tube stations across the capital.
The survey, which anyone can respond to, will shape how TfL spends funds allocated for improving step-free access across the network. It was drafted with the help of TfL's Independent Disability Advisory Group, and other organisations which represent older and disabled Londoners.
Unfortunately, there's no option to vote for your own local station to be fitted out with shiny new lifts. Rather, TfL is asking for more general feedback about what would be most useful for those who require step-free access. Should step-free access be prioritised at tube stations in town centres, or at those close to hospitals? And should TfL prioritise step-free interchanges with other lines within stations, or step-free access between tube lines in stations and bus stations at ground level?
Of course, in an ideal world, the entire tube network would be step-free. But, many stations, particularly those in central London, don't lend themselves to being retrofitted with lifts or ramps. Additionally, TfL's financial resources are becomingly increasingly limited, meaning that improvements have to be made in order of priority.
TfL will use the results of the survey, combined with other factors such as passenger data, transport modelling and engineering investigations, to prioritise how and where step-free access will be made available.
While step-free access is most important to the disabled, elderly and those with mobility issues, they're not the only ones who benefit. Parents travelling with prams and pushchairs, or younger children who may struggle using the stairs, also reap the benefits of step-free stations. You only have to visit South Kensington station during school holidays to see scores of prams being carried from platforms to street-level as families visit the nearby museums. And which Londoner (or tourist) hasn't been grateful for the presence of a lift in a station when travelling with heavy luggage?
Since 2016, TfL has created step-free access at 21 tube stations, either by adapting existing stations, or building additions such as Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station with step-free access. See what the current step-free network looks like, on the TfL website.
The consultation is open now, and runs until 10 February 2022, with findings due to be shared in the spring. Take part online, call 020 3054 6037 (or textphone service 0800 112 3456), or email firstname.lastname@example.org to have a copy of the survey posted to you.