Saturday, October 24, 2009

London subway station halts elevator project

From the Richmond and Twickenham Times in the UK:

A plan to build two lifts at Osterley station has been put on hold – leaving wheelchair users “out in the cold”.

The cost-cutting decision to halt the project, made by Transport for London (TfL), was met with frustration by members of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

This year the charity has sent undercover assessors, known as Trailblazers, on to the streets to investigate wheelchair accessibility on public transport, at universities and, recently, at leisure facilities.

Trailblazers project manager, Bobby Ancil, said: “It’s another blow but it’s not a great surprise.

“For the majority of wheelchair users the Tube is pretty much a write-off.

“There’s many different things that need to be made uniform – as well as lifts.

“We know lifts are very expensive and the biggest obstacle to this station being fully accessible is having one.

“We want to see accessibility at the heart of what people do around the infrastructure of this network and not the first thing that gets dropped when there’s a lack of money.”

Mr Ancil added that an inaccessible Tube line – he claims only 57 out of 260 stations are accessible to wheelchair users – left many disabled people “out in the cold”.

“Basically what they are doing is saying to disabled people they cannot use the place,” he said.

“It’s being given an opportunity and it being taken away again.”

It is understood the transport operator’s cutbacks have been caused by such factors as the collapse of Metronet – a partnership responsible for the maintenance of underground lines – a recession-linked fall in Tube passengers, and the previous administration’s fares policy.

A spokeswoman for TfL said: “Due to the pressures on TfL’s finances resulting from the economic downturn and the financial impact of Metronet’s collapse, some projects, including the work at Osterley, have unfortunately had to be deferred.”

She stressed the operator was “committed” to making its network accessible and said step-free access was still going ahead at “key strategic stations”.

As well as making cuts to its capital programme, TfL has announced an increase in the cost of travel for passengers.

The results of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s UK-wide leisure facility investigation will be published on December 3.