Navin in the News
Navin's News: Jubilee Line
Who "independently assessed" the slope at Stanmore?
While the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, maintains that the steep slope at Stanmore station legally constitutes "disabled access", the independent assessment of this is increasingly under fire.
Last June, you may have seen an interview in the Harrow Observer with Justin Frishberg, a member of the London Wheelchair Rugby Club which trains at ASPIRE's facility in Stanmore. Justin detailed his experiences of Stanmore illustrating it is not just the ramp but the whole environment that is difficult for wheelchair users.
As Alex Rankin of ASPIRE said in that interview:
"It's incredibly misleading to have that wheelchair symbol sign on Stanmore station.
"The wheelchair accessible ramp just isn't accessible for wheelchair users. It's far too long, the road is in such a poor condition and it's exposing people to danger. It is frustrating for anybody coming up to use Aspire or the hospital."
I'm of little doubt the issue at Stanmore illustrates the difficulties around a legal definition of 'disabled access', as first defined in the Disability Discrimination Act and now guided by the Equality Act 2010. Accessible in law doesn't necessarily equal accessible for all in practise, yet Transport for London's assessment is based on compliance with the law. We need a shift to focus on user's needs, not the bare legal minimum.
But the gradient of the slope is not the only problem at Stanmore. As users know, the car park is not open during the day time, and the disabled spot often used. I put these problems to the Mayor in a recent question:
Thank you for your response to Question No: 3660 / 2010. As you stated: “It should be noted that there is already a step-free route to and from the platforms at Stanmore using a ramp (which has been independently assessed as complying fully with British Standards) via the car park.” Unfortunately, the car park is closed during the daytime so step-free route is completely useless. Would you agree for a TfL representative to meet me at the station to fully discuss the options as soon as possible?
Answer by Boris Johnson
TfL is of course more than happy to meet you at Stanmore station to discuss the current accessibility arrangements in place and I understand that this meeting has now been set up.
It is true that, because Stanmore car park is heavily used, there are occasions when the NCP attendant responsible for the car park may temporarily prevent access for cars for a limited period during the day in the event of all the spaces already being taken. This is to prevent unnecessary congestion in the car park.
However, access for pedestrians requiring a step-free route is still available at all times. In addition, the car park should always remain open for mobility impaired customers to be dropped off or picked up even when the car park is full. If you are aware of any incidents when this has not been the case, please pass the details on to TfL who will investigate and take appropriate action.
What strikes me most about this response is the lack of imagination at Transport for London. No mention is made of interchange, it is presumed passengers with access issues will get to Stanmore by car, and Transport for London do not admit that the long walk from the bus stop to the car park entrance only compounds difficulties for those with mobility issues. A meeting has been set up between Transport for London, the Stanmore Society, ASPIRE, the Disability Foundation, the RNOH, the local MP, myself and consituents who have contacted me about access to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. I will of course report on the outcome here.
In the meantime, you can find Transport for London's step-free access guide, which contains more information on Stanmore and all legally denoted 'step-free' stations, here (opens PDF).
The Jubilee Line Upgrade: No Light At the End of the Tunnel
London Underground have this week announced that the closure programme to complete the Jubilee Line upgrade is likely to continue into 2011.
The Jubilee Line, as all of my constituents know, has being subject to the upgrade works since early 2007. Over the last three years North West London has been subject to regular weekend closures, rail replacements services and a great deal of inconvenience.
London Underground, which is part of Transport for London, concluded the takeover of Tube Lines, the private consortium charged with upgrading the Northern, Piccadilly and Jubilee Lines in June. At this point, while work already lagged behind schedule at over £100m over the original budget, it became clear there were a number of problems with the new signalling system required to boost capacity on the line. TfL immediately announced closures up to December, but this week, following testing of the signals on Saturday August 21st, it is rumoured to be unlikely the work will be completed before the end of March 2011.
When the Jubilee Line is finished, North West London residents will benefit from more frequent trains and shorter travelling time, but this is a distant reward after years of considerable inconvenience and cost to businesses and residents.
The closures up until December, which unfortunately particularly affect the North-Western end of the line as much of the work is in the Neasden area. These still may change at short notice so I would advise you to check your journey on www.tfl.gov.uk before you travel. I will of course post news as soon as I receive it.
1300 Demand Better Access At Stanmore
I first became involved in the issue of step-free access at Stanmore London Underground Station in 2009. I was proud to present a petition of almost 1266 signatures to the London Assembly in July of that year demanding upgrades to the station to make it truly step-free.
The petition was organised by Jacqueline Raynaud of the Elm Park Residents Association, with the backing of Harrow Association of Disabled People. Asif Iqbal of HAD presented the petition to me at City Hall.
The petition read:
We the undersigned urgently request the installation of a lift at Stanmore Underground Station, as an addition to its current enlargement. The existing "disabled access" is completely inadequate. It is a long steep path which is almost impossible for the disabled, people pushing wheelchairs and also people with luggage to negotiate.
The usual entrance/exit (via 42 steep steps) can be difficult even for the able bodied, particularly the elderly and those with small children, baby buggies etc.
At a tome when all public buildings are required to have proper disabled access, this should surely be a priority at a tube station, particularly one that serves important venues like the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and Wembley Stadium, and which will be used by people from all over the country during the forthcoming Olympics and Paralympics.
In August, the Mayor responded to the petition:
Re: Step-free access at Stanmore Station
Thank you for the petition presented to the London Assembly plenary meeting on 22 July about step free access at Stanmore station. On receipt of your letter I asked Transport for London to look into the matter.
I can appreciate that the current step-free access to Stanmore station, accessed via the station car park using a ramp, is not ideal, given that it is quite a steep path. Furthermore, TfL are aware that this is not always clear to customers arriving from the bus station and main entrance.
Ideally, I would like step free access at all of London's key rail and tube stations but, as you will be aware, TfL is under severe financial constraints following the collapse of the Metronet contract and the larger economic slowdown. In addition, Metronet's station programme was already significantly over-spent due to the previous administration and work has had to be done to pare back Metronet's spending plans to align with available funding.
Given there is already a step-free route at Stanmore, albeit far from ideal, I am afriad that funds are unavailable to install lifts or escalators at the station. However, I have asked TfL to provided improved signange at the station to the step free entrance, which I hope will assist some customers.
Thank you again for writing to me.
Mayor of London
While running a city's transport services does of course involve difficult decisions, I think the Mayor is telling only half the story. Blaming Metronet's overspend on the 'previous administration' shows a wilful misunderstanding of the PPP arrangements as they stood, originating from central government before London Underground came under the Mayor of London in 2003! It also suggests the current Mayor's priorities and projects do not affect TfL's finances, while of course he plans to abolish the Western zone of the congestion charge, has spent £100m on a new bus and has raised fares every year!
Nonetheless, the Mayor does acknowledge problems exist at the station and I welcome the new signs in providing improved information, particularly for new visitors, though of course this does nothing to improve access itself.
Do you have difficulties at Stanmore? Do you think the signs have helped? If you have any comments or questions why not contact me?
Published by NeonHorizon. Promoted by Keith Ferry on behalf of Navin Shah, both at 20 Byron Road, Harrow, HA3 7ST