Less than a third of London underground stations are fully accessible to disabled passengers, according to a new investigation.
Law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp (BBK) analysed data from multiple sources and uncovered that just 84 out of 270 stations are currently fully accessible.
Seventy-seven tube stations were listed as fully accessible when the firm carried out the research in 2019, meaning 29% of underground stations were accessible in 2019, and 31% in 2021 – an improvement of 6.9% over two years.
This is despite the Transport Committee finding in October 2019 that “the connectivity of infrastructure and services across different transport modes and providers needs to be improved, in order to enhance the journey experience of disabled and older passengers.”
BBK also uncovered from reports by Transport Focus, the Department for Transport and the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers that travelling on public transport continues to be difficult for disabled passengers.
Transport Focus’s Transport User Panel found that 17% of disabled respondents, versus 14% of able-bodied respondents, rated services as fairly or very poor.
More than a quarter (26%) of disabled respondents said their local public transport limited their access to employment opportunities, compared with 18% of able-bodied people.
And 62% of disabled people said they’d travel more if public transport was easier for them to use, versus 41% of able-bodied people.
Research by the law firm also found that for one in five disabled people, public transport felt unsafe during COVID-19.
What’s more, 67% of disabled people said they weren’t aware of the various Transport for London lanyard schemes for people with hidden and/or visible disabilities.
When asked by the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers in August 2020, only 39% of disabled people expressed a willingness to return to using public transport once Covid-19 travel restrictions were fully relaxed, while 52% said they were unsure. Over 700 people responded to this study.
Victoria Oliver, head of the spinal injury team at BBK said; “The past 18 months have been incredibly challenging for the disabled community. Even before the pandemic, access to public transport was limited and now people are facing those difficult journeys whilst also feeling very exposed and at risk.
“When we commissioned our Going the Extra Mile campaign back in 2018 the results – that it took a wheelchair user longer to commute across London compared to an able-bodied person – were disappointing if not surprising.
“The fact that the disabled community is still struggling to safely access public transport is beyond frustrating. For some it will means increased costs as they are forced to rely on other forms of transport. For others these lost hours add up across a week and have a massive impact on their ability to work and enjoy the same amount of family and leisure time that the able-bodied community do.
It is our hope that by continuing to shine a light on this ongoing issue that positive change may happen.”