As we reach the end of 2018, it is a good time to take inventory of the state of step-free access projects in London. Unfortunately, this year has been characterised by a series of high-profile delays, ranging from the undefined Crossrail delay to the late introduction of new Overground trains. However, there are many other accessibility schemes in progress, and they each have their own triumphs and failures. And so, this post will be an overview of a variety of projects.
As 2018 is effectively over, no additional step-free stations are expected to open this year. This means that all Crossrail East works are now due in early 2019, as well as those at Tottenham Hale, Meridian Water, and Northumberland Park. This has now been updated on the SfL Future Stations List.
Upcoming Underground stations
Looking at the Underground, there were two stations that were close to opening this year: Finsbury Park and Waterloo (Waterloo & City line). The work at Finsbury Park, which adds two lifts to give access to the Victoria and Piccadilly lines, was meant to open today but has now been pushed back one week according to the Piccadilly Line Twitter account.
Waterloo, whose works are tied to the refurbished former Eurostar platforms 20-24, is expected to become step-free to the Waterloo & City line in late January.
Coupled with the recently completed works at Bank, the W&C line will be the first Underground line to become fully step-free. Unfortunately, one major issue remains. The new lifts will lead to a “peak-hour subway,” which is only opened during the morning and evening peaks. This means that under current plans, step-free access will not be available throughout the majority of the day. Hopefully once the link is open, pressure from accessibility groups will urge rail bosses to reconsider the subway’s opening hours.
I frequently criticise the Crossrail project for failing to live up to its promises of a truly accessible railway. Indeed, with last-minute bombshells hinting at dropped accessibility funding, it is easy to see that even a multibillion-pound project is doing the absolute minimum to accommodate disabled passengers.
As Alan says, this is not surprising, given the lack of progress on this section. There are 10 stations on the Western branch that need step-free access, so any lapse in funding would have devastating consequences for those living in the area. The lack of funding is especially disappointing considering Transport for All fought hard (and won) to force the Government to ensure that every Crossrail station would have step-free access. As this work costs 0.02% of the total Crossrail budget, it is disgraceful that part of it is being cut.
Progress in Ealing!
In slightly happier news, at least we know of two Crossrail West stations that haven’t lost their step-free access funding yet. Over the Christmas period, new accessible footbridges have magically sprouted at Ealing Broadway and West Ealing.
As both stations are meant to get a reconstructed ticket hall, it is not clear when the bulk of this work will get done. But it is reassuring to at least see physical progress after months of inactivity.
Looking at the Stratford to Angel Road (STAR) project, it looks like all three stations (Tottenham Hale, Northumberland Park, and Meridian) are nearing completion.
Further Underground Delays
Rounding off the latest set of delays, it was reported earlier this month that both the Bank station upgrade and the Northern Line Extension will be delayed almost a year to 2021. While construction itself remains reportedly on-time, TfL would rather both projects open at the same time to avoid additional disruptions to the Northern line.
Access for All
The new funding period for Network Rail’s Access for All begins next year, with £300m available for new as well as deferred schemes. Before going into that, it is important to keep track of the current projects, lest they get rebranded as “deferred”.
The following is a list of all the current non-deferred Access for All schemes. They are all meant to be completed by 2020. The italicised stations are those where I have not heard about or seen any works, while the bold ones are those that are clearly in progress. If anyone has any updated information about any of these stations, please let me know.
- Palmers Green
- Alexandra Palace
- Ewell West
- Coulsdon South
- Tottenham Hale
- West Hampstead
- Finsbury Park
As a reminder, the deferred London stations are Barnes, Battersea Park, Hither Green, Petts Wood, Queen’s Park, Peckham Rye, Seven Sisters, St Mary Cray, and Streatham. The new stations for the schemes will likely not be announced until Spring 2019, but focussing on station nominations is a good way to gain insight on the priorities of TfL and various train operators. Southeastern has been the most vocal London operator, asking its passengers for nominations. These have now been reduced to 22 stations, with 11 of them within Greater London.
The stations are Albany Park, Chislehurst, Clock House, Elmstead Woods, Erith, Falconwood, Kent House, Kidbrooke, Penge East, Sidcup, and West Dulwich.
From TfL’s side, 21 nominations have been put forth. While their identities have not been made publicly available, I can say that they include 7 GTR stations, 4 South Western Railway stations, and 9 stations on the Overground network. Finally, RAIL Magazine 868 reports that train operator c2c has nominated Upminster. Curiously, all of the c2c platforms at Upminster are step-free, and the works are instead meant for the Overground platform of the Romford-Upminster Line.
As the Access for All scheme covers the entire country, it is likely that many of these stations will ultimately not be chosen. Nevertheless, it is good to see that the nominations are tackling important gaps in accessibility and I hope that the most pressing schemes do go ahead.
One project that still hasn’t experienced delays is the Overground’s Barking Riverside Extension. A contractor has been appointed for the project, and the station is set to open in late 2021.
Finally, the City of London (Square Mile) has recently launched its latest Transport Strategy Consultation. The strategy covers important proposals to reduce the presence of cars, promote alternate modes of transport, and improve accessibility. I encourage anyone who is interested to read through the proposals and respond to the consultation. Looking at the section on accessibility, the City of London has the ambitious goal to make all of its stations step-free by 2044. With 12 Underground and 6 National Rail stations located in an incredibly dense part of the city, this will be no small feat. The current priority is Bank, which will bring step-free access to the Northern line and DLR.
Interestingly, the document mentions the Moorgate National Rail platforms as a future step-free access project. This is significant as there has been a lot of confusion regarding whether Crossrail works at Moorgate would include these platforms. Unfortunately, it is now clear that the National Rail platforms will remain inaccessible once the Elizabeth Line opens, and another expensive redevelopment will be needed in the near future.
That’s all I have for now. I wish everyone a happy New Year and I will be back next year with more accessibility coverage!