Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Accessible underground

Recently, maps of the London Underground have been including details of stations which are accessible to wheelchair users – either those with street-level exits or lifts in addition to stairs or escalators. You can download this map as a PDF file at the Tube Maps page at the Transport for London site, which has, incidentally, been written with accessible HTML.
If you look at the map, you’ll see that the vast majority of stations are not accessible to wheelchair users, including some of the big ones like King’s Cross. Others, like Waterloo, are only partially accessible.
In fact the only line where all stations are accessible is the Docklands Light Railway, but then this is a comparitively recent line. The Jubilee Line manages quite a number of accessible stations but the majority of these are on the Jubilee Line Extension which is only a few years old.
It isn’t until you travel with a wheelchair user that you realise just how difficult it is – when I went with a friend in October last year getting to the Picadilly Line platforms at King’s Cross was something of a challenge. Thankfully, the other two stations we visited – Earl’s Court and Kensington Olympia – are both accessible.
In its defence, Transport for London are working on improving the situation – King’s Cross will have full lift access by 2008 once the current expansion works there are complete. And they do have their work cut out – upgrading every single station on the network will cost an absolute shedload due to the extra tunneling that’s likely to be needed and it may even be impossible in some places. Upgrading other forms of transport like buses is much cheaper and many of London’s black cabs can take a wheelchair easily, so it is somehwat forgivable if TfL don’t have sorting the underground out as one of its priorities.
Still, if you are a wheelchair user, you may want to consider living and working in south east London.

4 Comments

  1. This is interesting in my view, especially with the big stations where millions get payed a year.
    For smaller, older stations I understand but King’s Cross and Waterloo?
    Also, I still don’t get why the map is in PDF format, wouldn’t it be more logical to me an image file so mobile phones can view it too.
    The goverment still don’t support open-source/unusual technologies such as djVU.

  2. There is a GIF version of the standard map. The PDF version is drawn using vectors so you can zoom in and out without losing quality.

  3. Aren’t all public places required by law to be accessable now?

  4. LordRich: Don’t quote me on this, but I believe public places have to be made accessable where it is reasonable for them to do so. So adding a wheelchair ramp outside a pub is cheap and easy to do and so should be done, digging many holes several dozen feet down in the middle of London, installing multiple lifts (in case of breakdown), working out emergency fire escape routes/protocols (when the lifts will be unusable) etc is a lot more complex therefore they are allowed to take more time: however, they are not allow to “not do anything” (as that wouldn’t be reasonable).