3x more disabled people stranded at Tube stations because of staff shortages - one was closed for 18 HOURS

Disabled people are increasingly left stranded at so called “accessible” Tube stations due to staff shortages, it has emerged.

Last year there were 162 instances where a shortage of staff meant lifts at Tube stations across London were closed, according to information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by WhatDoTheyKnow.com.

This is up from 51 instances in 2009.

In 2013, step-free access was unavailable for almost 500 hours in total and, on six occasions, passengers were forced to wait more than 10 hours before access was restored, with the longest wait more than 18 hours.

Passengers with disabilities are already extremely limited travelling by Tube, as only 66 of a total 270 stations have step-free access. However, TfL said it plans to make a further 26 Tube and Overground stations step-free over the next eight years.

Lift closure due to staff shortage has happened at almost half current accessible stations at some point since 2008.

The worst station was Kilburn, in North-West London, which was inaccessible on 89 occasions since May 2008, followed by Southfields, in South-West London, at 76 times and Oakwood, in North London, at 66 times.

Transport for London told LondonlovesBusiness.com that where a trend develops at any station, it would make sure to deal with it.

Phil Hufton, London Underground’s chief operating officer, told us: “These figures shows that, at the 26 stations that appear in the list, step-free access was available for 99.8% of the time that the stations were open.

“In some circumstances, for example where a member of staff is called away to attend an incident elsewhere, the lift must be taken out of service. We always advertise this immediately and work to restore service as quickly as possible.”

Disability groups said many disabled people had faced the problem and felt they were often not given notice in order to change their travel plans.

Sue Bott, director of policy and development at Disability Rights UK, said it was feasible to imagine disabled passengers getting off the tube at their destination to find they were unable to exit the station as the lift was closed.

She said: “We want to be able to travel at any time. It’s about having a life.”

Millions of pounds of investment “going to waste”

What made the situation worse was, unlike lift breakdowns, staff shortages were completely avoidable, she said.

“They’ve spent millions on improving the Tube and, if they’re going to invest, it seems silly if it’s going to fall down from shortages of staff,” said Bott. “The money is just going to waste.”

Lianna Etkind, campaigns and outreach co-ordinator for charity Transport for All, agreed. She added that TfL should make it clearer that disabled people are entitled to assistance if they’re unable to access a Tube or train station at the last minute.

“There’s a taxi policy, where a member of staff must help you find an alternative route. This might be a bus, but where it’s too difficult then they can call you a taxi, which TfL pays for.”

Bob Crow, leader of transport union RMT, told LondonlovesBusiness.com there was already a dire shortage of staff to assist disabled people and these were exactly the kind of jobs that were most at risk in the Tube’s proposed 950 job cuts.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I am sorry, but, while I deplore the lack of cover for these stations, I would query your statement of "passengers were forced to wait more than 10 hours before access was restored, with the longest wait more than 18 hours." The stations may have been closed for that length of time, but where is your evidence for people waiting that length of time?

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  • Hi there, thanks for pointing that out. I've changed the headline to make it a little clearer. However, in the part you mentioned, I think it's clear that disabled passengers were forced to wait for the lift to re-open before being able to use the station again. I imagine a proportion would be able to use the stairs, but some would have no option but to wait until lift access was restored to be able to use the station again. If the lift was out of service, some disabled passengers would be unable to use the tube from that location at any point over the, say 10 hours, and therefore have to wait. If your question is how many disabled passengers would have used a lift if it wasn't closed, I don't think there's any way of finding that out, unfortunately. I think the point is that access should be there all the time and disabled people should not have to use other modes of transport and change their plans while they're waiting for the tube station to be accessible again.

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