While I’ve already discussed issues with the London Tube as a wheelchair user. I recently encountered 3 extra issues on my trip to North Greenwich station to head to the O2 for Arctic Monkeys live with my best friend Dev. This was certainly an eye-opening experience for Dev as to what it’s like travelling with me on the Tube.
The 3 issues were:
Step vs Gap
Some stations which are advertised as step free still have a gap between the platform and the train. As an example of how bad this problem is, we took 4 tube trains for this journey (Uxbridge – Wembley Park then Wembley Park to North Greenwich, and the same journey on the return), and had issues on 3 of them. These issues all ended with my front wheels getting stuck in the gap between the train and the platform. As can be expected, these situations left me terrified that I was going to fall onto the tracks. TFL (Transport For London) DO write the platform gaps at stations onto the map they hand out, so you can check platforms gaps at stations before you travel. But there are 2 problems with this: Firstly, I don’t explicitly know the dimensions of my chair, so I don’t KNOW what platform gaps it could handle. Secondly, why is the onus on me to have all this information about wheelchair dimensions and platform gaps to be able to travel safely? Can we not just make stations accessible or correctly label those that are fully accessible?
Arriving at Station to Lift Out of Service
When we arrived at North Greenwich station, we found that the lift from our side of the station to ticket level was out of order for planned maintenance. We were not informed of this when Wembley Park radioed through to inform North Greenwich we’d be turning up. This issue was compounded when North Greenwich refused to send assistance to meet us off the train, seen as how I didn’t need a ramp and therefore apparently didn’t need assistance (I mean, if I ask for assistance, I NEED assistance, but whatever). Thankfully there was a backup plan to get us out of the station using a different lift, but this was a backup plan we weren’t informed about. As you can imagine, this lead to quite the panic when we got off the train to the sight of no apparent access out of the station and no idea how we’d get to the gig.
Staff Instructions Not Matching Signage
Some stations have a sticker on certain platform doors stating, “board here for level access at such and such other station”. In our case we were at North Greenwich and the sticker indicated the carriage for level boarding at Wembley Park (our destination). Having noted this, I headed toward the sticker, because surely it would be the safest place for me to board? Apparently not, as a member of TFL staff redirected me to the other end of the platform. This decision led to issue 1 (where my front wheels got stuck in the platform gap) both when boarding and disembarking this train. My takeaway point here is to make sure that staff training, and communication matches the signage at stations because, after incidents like this, I am ALWAYS more inclined to follow station signage than staff instruction!
I hope this provides more insight into the issues with the London Tube system as a wheelchair user.
Em (Invincible Woman on Wheels)