Mapping the Development of

Step-free Access Across

London’s Rail Network

Step-Free London

Mapping the Development of

Step-free Access Across

London’s Rail Network

Spring Cleaning: New Map and New Journeys

Apologies for the long period since my last post. If you have been checking out the SfL Map recently, you may have noticed significant changes in its design. A small design change to better capture cross-platform interchanges and to fix the scaling of the c2c railway lines somehow snowballed into a massive redevelopment of every aspect of the existing map. Coupled with the completion of the station-specific information for all the accessible stations inside London’s Pay-as-You-Go zone, the map has reached a new state of completion and is ready for any new station, line, or zone expansion.

New Step-Free Station

Debden on the Central line is now step-free from street to platform! Although it is seen as one of the least accessible of the London Underground lines, in the past 5 years, the Central line has received a notable boost in accessibility, with Greenford, South Woodford, Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street, Newbury Park, and Buckhurst Hill also becoming step-free to platform, bringing the total number of step-free stations to 11 (not counting partial access). This is still only 22% of all Central line stations, but with Ealing Broadway imminently due to become accessible, as well as the deferred plans at Hanger Lane, Northolt, and Snaresbrook, and the less-defined plans for Holborn and Leyton, the West End and the suburban portions of the line will have much improved access in the near future.

Better-than-expected accessibility at the outer section of the Central lines eastern branch

Unfortunately this still leaves unacceptable gaps within inner London, with a ten-station streak of inaccessibility between Bond Street and Ealing Broadway. Revived plans at Shepherd’s Bush and an accessible Notting Hill Gate would go a long way in remedying this. Also, as I’ve previously discussed, the Central line’s current rolling stock door design prevents the use of platform humps as a way to achieve level boarding, so this will unfortunately have to wait until a new rolling stock is built for the Central line.

As for the other ongoing step-free access works involving the Underground, we have some new updates from Osterley!

With the new lifts in place and the works appearing to be reaching their end, it seems like there will be a mad dash to the finish line among Osterley, Ealing Broadway, and Ickenham to be the next step-free station. Stay tuned!

Platform Humps for the Bakerloo Line

Speaking of platform humps earlier, in very welcome news, not publicised by TfL of course, the worst-performing Underground line in terms of accessibility, the Bakerloo line, has gained its first set of platform humps at Oxford Circus! The Bakerloo line currently only has 3 step-free stations (Harrow & Wealdstone, Wembley Central, and Willesden Junction), all of which are shared with the Overground service from Euston to Watford, meaning that currently there is not much incentive to actually use the Bakerloo line if one needs step-free access. However, the Bakerloo line also has two cross-platform interchanges in Central London (at Baker Street with the Jubilee line and at Oxford Circus with the Victoria line) that can provide easy access to more the accessible lines travelling along the same direction. Through these interchanges, journeys such as Wembley Central to Vauxhall via Oxford Circus, and Willesden Junction to Waterloo via Baker Street are possible, as is the journey from any step-free Bakerloo line station to Green Park via either interchange station.

Sample step-free Bakerloo line journeys using Oxford Circus and Baker Street cross-platform interchanges

As shown in the picture above, with these interchanges, the Bakerloo line can essentially be thought of as an extension of the Jubilee and Victoria lines. However, up until recently, both interchange stations required manual boarding ramps for the Bakerloo line platforms (the other platforms already had level boarding through platform humps), making these journeys much less attractive given the busy nature of Central London stations. Now that Oxford Circus is a level boarding interchange, assistance is no longer an issue here, making the elusive Bakerloo line much easier to access from the Victoria Line. Similar to the cross-platform interchange at Stockwell between the Victoria and Northern lines, it is also possible to get around the “travelling in the same direction” restriction for the interchange by travelling one station south to Green Park and reversing direction by switching to a northbound Victoria line service (the southbound and northbound services have a cross-platform interchange here), enabling a trip such as Wembley Central to Kings Cross St Pancras.

Using two cross-platform interchanges to connect the Bakerloo line to Kings Cross St Pancras!

With the Bakerloo line platforms at Paddington set to become step-free once the Elizabeth line service begins at the end of this year, the usefulness of the Bakerloo line for accessibility will grow immensely, as it will be the only “direct” link between the Elizabeth and Victoria lines. It is unknown whether either of the Paddington platforms will get platform humps, or if Baker Street will, but this is an important step towards increased resilience for step-free journeys in London.

To give a personal example, in 2019 my husband and I were travelling from Paddington to St Pancras in the early morning to catch a Eurostar service. Due to re-signalling works closing the Hammersmith & City/ Circle lines and street works in front of Paddington diverting buses, we unsuccessfully tried to use an “accessible” taxi on Edgware Road, and ultimately had to wait 20 minutes for a bus and almost missed our train. With the Elizabeth Line and a step-free Bakerloo line platform at Paddington, there will be at least two alternatives to complete this journey by rail, via Oxford Street and Green Park, as well as via Farringdon. This type of resilience means that a single station closure or broken lift does not necessarily spell the end of a journey, and it is great to see that, with a bit of creativity, more and more journeys will have alternative routes.

If you look at my map, you will notice there are several cross-platform interchange-only stations throughout Central London, primarily involving the Victoria Line (also note that you can change direction at any Victoria line station that doesn’t have a cross-platform interchange with another line except for Pimlico). If used effectively, cross-platform interchanges and reversing services are a good alternative to the hellish interchanges at Green Park and Kings Cross St Pancras, which include multiple long corridors and lifts, as well as much confusion.

Map Upgrade!

I will now address the elephant in the room: the new map. First of all, the drawn-out process of adding all the station-specific information for each station in the interactive map is now finished. You can now click or search for any accessible station in London and see up-to-date information about its accessibility features, amenities, staffing, and any quirks.

Station-specific information for City Thameslink

Moving onto the design of the map itself, it is probably best to display the old and new version side-by-side to show the scale of the changes. All in all, every single line and station, as well as the shape of the River Thames, has changed.

Comparison of the old and new map versions

Apart from being slightly larger, the new version of the map redistributes the balance of the lines and better obeys the relative geographical layout of the railway network, creating more space within the map and allowing for the addition of future stations and lines. I’m very pleased that the map design has shed a lot more of the influence from the TfL and National Rail maps and is more tailored to its focus on step-free access. This is especially the case for the cross-platform interchanges, which are now shown with the interchanging lines positioned parallel to one another to better visualise the possible journeys.

Design changes in Central London, including the redesigned interchanges and station boxes for complicated stations

While the shape of some lines does suffer with this change, especially the Victoria line, I hope that the design choice will make the interchanges more noticeable and likely to be used.

Please let me know what you think of the changes and whether there any suggestions about further changes. And, as always, please share this far and wide to anyone who might benefit from this resource.

Early Crossrail Openings

One of the challenges of making the new version was ensuring that the Elizabeth Line would be able to fit seamlessly within the map upon its opening and not feel like a late addition. Similarly, as the new Elizabeth Line stations are handed over to TfL, TfL is starting to integrate part of these to existing stations in preparation for the service launch in December. The latest example is Farringdon, where a new entrance from the Thameslink ticket hall has opened. This new section is currently just an alternative route to the northbound Thameslink platform, but it will eventually lead straight to the Elizabeth Line.

From an access point of view, this soft open has very little impact, as all existing services at Farringdon already had step-free access, but this does hint that we may see further soft openings at other Elizabeth Line stations where we could get improved accessibility before December.

This is relevant at Moorgate (Met/H&C/Circle and Northern), Whitechapel (H&C/District and Overground), and Paddington (Bakerloo). At Whitechapel and Moorgate, the Elizabeth Line station entrance replaces the existing one and provides separate step-free access to all services, making it possible to open just the sections leading to the existing lines. Unfortunately, neither station has started the 12-week handover process as of right now. And with Paddington, the Bakerloo line step-free route is actually through the Elizabeth Line platform area, making it much less likely to open prematurely despite being due to be handed over to TfL by the end of May. There are simultaneously works happening right now to give the Bakerloo line a dedicated step-free route from the east side of Paddington station, but this will not be ready until mid 2022, so we will likely have to wait for the Elizabeth Line to open. The important thing, as always, is that the work is progressing and we will get these valuable links within the next few months.

Access For All Update

The ever-secretive Access for All scheme, which seldom makes scheme-wide updates and instead relies on station-specific reporting from local sources, continues to move forward. Stoneleigh station in northeast Surrey (South Western Railway) has an agreed design and financing for its step-free access works, which are due to begin in October 2022.

I really hope we see some significant progress with the remaining 30 stations inside London’s metropolitan area before then, but it is frustrating to see such little information about most of the schemes. I will start writing to Network Rail for more frequent updates, as this is not acceptable for such an important project.

New Access at Waterloo

Finally, long-awaited plans to get rid of the hideous Elizabeth House office building next to Waterloo station and bring step-free access to the Northern line platforms have reached a new stage, with a deal signed to redevelop the area and build a new lift shaft to the Northern Line.

Location of new One Waterloo building and lift shaft to the Northern line platforms (source)

This is great news, as the Northern Line’s Charing Cross section only has Tottenham Court Road as a step-free station currently. It is a bit worrying, however, that the article states that TfL and Lambeth Council still need to provide additional funding, but at this stage it would be unthinkable for this opportunity to be missed. I look forward to seeing the removal of this horrible building and seeing the progress as another major step-free scheme takes shape.


With the further easing of lockdown next week, things are slowly starting to feel less chaotic and more safe. If any of my readers are planning to go back to venturing London’s messy rail network and trying out new routes, let me know! With any luck, my husband and I will make it back to London before the start of summer!

49 comments

  1. One piece of news is that newly re-elected Mayor Sadiq Khan has reappointed Heidi Alexander as Deputy Mayor for Transport and given her enthusiasm for the step free schemes in his first term bodes well for the longer term once the financial crisis of TFL has been overcome.

  2. Caroline Pidgeon appointed Chair of Transport Committee on TFL see –

    Caroline Pidgeon Large orange diamond
    @CarolinePidgeon
    · 4h
    Delighted to have been elected as Chair of the @LondonAssembly Transport Committee today for the crucial and important year ahead.

  3. Partial step free access to Notting Hill Gate Station.

    Over site development will include lifts to provide step free access to the southbound Circle Line platform . While the lift from street to booking hall together with escalators will provide stair free access to the Central line.

    SFA to the northbound platform is dependent on another development, see –

    https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2021/05/18/step-free-access-to-notting-hill-gate-tube-station-planned/

    1. On the bright side at least one platform will get step-free access which will enable other platforms to be potentially added lifts in the future.

      1. I have zero hopes for the central line getting lifts ever, if theres no enabling works done during this redevelopment

  4. Seems TFL Tube map includes a newly named Thameslink station in south east London-

    E8 Plumbstead

    I also noticed an entry on Twitter under TFL Access search of lift at Harrow on the hill station which has been revealed at platform level

    1. Its not that simple, there is a narrow footpath behind platforms 8 and 9…ive had some friends take pics there, it is very hard to tell the minimum distance at one section, so it may be possible for qheelchair users to use it, albeit very slowly

  5. Good news, Ickenham has all hoardings removed, almost ready! Speaking of the Ealing Broadway to Bond Street “streak”, they should revive the scheme at North Acton. West Acton and White City both have good potential. Lancaster Gate and Queensway both just need one more lift down to the platforms.

  6. Was as Moorgate Station today and lift on westbound circle line etc. Platform had “ out of service “ message scrolling indicating that both platforms now have lifts which are almost ready to use as I have already seen eastbound platform lift at same stage in the past.

  7. Great find! Barbican has better platform-train interface and connection to the elizabeth line, but will only be step free westbound, so it will be interesting to see how much the step free link is used versus the one in Farringdon

    1. I wonder if based on the picture they would enable another door to be opened on S8 stock because of the lift extension.

    2. One problem is because the Barbican Station will only be accessible in one direction it won’t be shown on standard station and pocket tube maps.

      Perhaps it’s time especially with the opening of Crossrail/ Elizabeth Line station interchanges that this policy was reviewed.?

      1. Absolutely, this is most notably the case today at Paddington (district) and elephant & castle/borough (northern)

      1. This new entrance does mean that all stations towards Liverpool Street are now accessible. As for waiting for full scheme it depends on how long full access will take.

        This entrance does make one wonder how stations could gain step free access in one direction via ramps from entrance on platform?

    1. Not a chance. TfL cant even afford to carry out works at widely publicised above-ground stations like Hanger Lane. Bringing in a tube station that has never been part of any step-free access proposal and miraculously carrying out the works is not credible. I would love to be wrong, and Turnpike Lane is a perfect station to start plugging up the accessibility gap on the Piccadilly eastern branch, but unless the council found money of its own, I dont see it happening

      1. I hope I am wrong about works not happening there for step-free access but I think such hoarding at platform level could merely be a coincidental platform hump introduction with some yellow barriers to reduce station usage at street level… But if there are digging a little to prepare for future works that is really great to hear!

    1. I do think that it is a missed opportunity if Liverpool Street doesn’t get another lift to have step-free access to the other subsurface platform. The other is already step-free

      1. The building next to this new entrance is due for demolition and rebuilding and would be on the right side for westbound platform but may be to far west to link with westbound platform. It’s

  8. I noticed your comment about Osterley Station on Twitter and decided to read through the June papers and found the following re station access-

    On the Step-Free Access Programme, work on a further four stations were due to be completed by summer 2021. Subject to funding, a decision to restart works on three further stations would be taken in summer 2021.

    We are planning schemes to deliver:
    • Step-free access at 20-30 stations over the next 25 years; and

    • Additional capacity and improved accessibility at Elephant & Castle, Paddington (Bakerloo ticket hall), Holborn and Oxford Circus

    We also assume we will carry out some smaller scale works at some stations relating to Third-party and Commercial Development opportunities.

    So while it looks like some of the paused schemes might go ahead the total long term doesn’t look very ambitious compared to what has just been delivered.

    I noticed that Oxford Circus is mentioned but not Camden Town which is a much smaller scheme .

    1. I noticed that about Oxford Circus, and thought it might coincide with the pedestrianisation planned this year, and yes failing to mention Camden Town is very worrying, its badly needed to finally separate the northern lines

      1. Providing a lift from street to booking hall level would at least make Oxford Circus stair free to Bakerloo and Victoria lines full step free access would be much more expensive.

      1. I have heard from insiders in DistrictDave that Osterley may be around the next 2 weeks, followed by Wimbledon Park. Not sure about Harrow and Sudbury.

  9. TFL has issued official press release for Ickenham Station going step free it mentions that work at Osterley Station is ongoing-

    https://tfl.gov.uk/info-for/media/press-releases/2021/june/ickenham-becomes-the-latest-step-free-tube-station-raising-total-to-84

    It’s been announced that the official go ahead to build Old Oak Common Station today which will include 4 Crossrail platforms. Will have to see if additional Overground Stations get the free go ahead as well

  10. The plans for Highbury and Islington involved reopened original entrance on Holloway Road which provided lift access to the Great Northern line before the Victoria Line was built see Ian Allen link below-

    https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2017/08/06/new-entrance-planned-for-highbury-and-islington-station/

    In fact when you get to the bottom of the escalators at Highbury you then use a subway that’s beneath Holloway Road and then pass the old lift shaft before continuing on to the stairs to platforms below.

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