Ignoring the glaring delays with the opening of Meridian Water station, now scheduled for 3rd June, and the never-ending work at Waterloo, this month has had a surprising amount of positive news with regards to step-free access. From a newly step-free suburban station to ambitious revised plans in the heart of the Square Mile, we have much to celebrate!
New Step-Free Access
The main news is that Chessington South is now fully accessible via a new footpath. Being a terminus and only using a single platform, this is a perfect example of providing much-needed accessibility without requiring heavy reconstruction or disruption.
New Projects Break Ground
As one scheme ends, two appear to take its place. In this past week alone, step-free access works have begun at Harrow-on-the-Hill (Metropolitan line and Chiltern Railways) and Coulsdon South (Southern and Thameslink). These schemes are on track to be finished by early 2020, so hopefully these projects will be a success and not just another missed deadline.
Expansion at Stratford
One of London’s most chaotic interchange station, Stratford, is set to receive a welcome boost in capacity and resilience with a new western entrance to the station next to the Jubilee Line. In addition to creating easier access to the sprawling station, the scheme includes the installation of new lifts, which will definitely improve the reliability of step-free access at Stratford.
Crossrail West Update
In the often-forgotten Western branch of the Elizabeth Line, step-free access works are quietly moving along. At Iver, a quiet station between the limits of Greater London and Slough, the construction of a new accessible footbridge and station building is now well underway.
Despite the multiple frustrating delays we have seen with the Elizabeth Line, it is great to see the project moving towards completion.
Full Access at Bank(?) and Finsbury Park
Very surprisingly, the ongoing works at Bank station, which will create a new entrance with step-free access to the DLR and the Northern line, will potentially be even more ambitious. After commissioning a feasibility study, TfL has identified a viable option to bring step-free access to the famously curved Central line platforms (paywall). From the article:
“Step-free access to the Central line at the London Underground station had not been included in the original scope of the project, due to concerns over the degree of technical and engineering challenges that would need to be overcome to carry out the work. This included the curvature of the Central line platforms, and the proximity of other interchange stations in the City of London.
However, a feasibility study was commissioned by TfL earlier this year to look at whether previously dismissed step-free access could be provided, after concerns were raised by several TfL board members that it was not part of the current upgrade plans.
The new TfL Programmes and Investment board paper published ahead of its meeting next week, said as a result of the feasibility study, a viable technical option for street to platform step free access had been identified, with an estimated cost of £30M.”
This would mean that the entirely of Bank station (not Monument, unfortunately) would ultimately be step-free. There is still much discussion required before this additional work is confirmed, but it is a step in the right direction and shows that TfL is willing to re-evaluate previous decisions.
Speaking of welcome changes, it appears as if Finsbury Park WILL get step-free access for Thameslink and Great Northern northbound services. The step-free works at Finsbury Park have been a hybrid, encompassing Control Periods 5 (2014-2019) and 6 (2019-2024) as well involving both Network Rail and TfL. And so, the works to add lift to the remaining platforms will begin this Autumn as part of Access for All and will be completed in 2021.
Norwood Junction plans
Finally, plans to make Norwood Junction fully step-free are moving forward, although without an expected completion date. More information on this scheme, which is tied to the remodelling of East Croydon, is due next month.
New Accessible (and slightly less accessible) Trains
Moving onto new rolling stock, long overdue new Overground trains are now popping up on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBLIN). These will also replace existing train on the Overground routes starting from Liverpool Street and Euston. Unfortunately, just like the Elizabeth Line trains, they do not offer level boarding at existing stations.
On the other hand, the first Intercity level boarding Stadler Rail train has been delivered. It has even made its way to Liverpool Street. It shouldn’t be long before these trains are in service and we get widespread level boarding on the existing National Rail network for the first time!
Longer Accessible Journeys
Finally, in news that should not surprise anyone, a recent accessibility trial found that, on average, step-free public transport journeys take approximately 50% longer than inaccessible alternatives. In addition to inaccessible stations, the study found that factors such as uneven pavements and issues with the bus ramp also contributed to this disparity.