Friday 24th of February – I was ready for a lovely night out and it all went wrong!
As a wheelchair user, I always have to plan my journey ahead. I am familiar with most stations, which ones are step-free, where the lifts are and how to request assistance, I am not a beginner…
My journey started in Stratford and I had to go to Tottenham Court Road (TCR) via The Central Line. Only a few weeks ago it has been announced that TCR has become fully step-free. Great news, it will save me so much time now when I have to go to central London. Actually, the day of this announcement it happened to be that I was in the area. So, I tried it straight away. I went first down to The Northern line on the southbound platform. I was planning to go to London Bridge and change there with the Jubilee line when I realized I was on the wrong branch. However, there was part of the platform raised up to the train level, but I hadn’t paid attention on how big the gap was, so I did not know if a ramp would be needed to board. There was a staff member there who was very nice and helpful and she directed me to The Central Line, which was suitable for me to get to Stratford. There, it was another staff member on the platform, not as helpful as the other one, who I asked if the platform was step free and also to request assistance in Stratford to get off. He said I had to speak to the information point that he could not call. Fair enough, I went to the information point and they arranged everything and told me to get the guy who I talked before to help me to board on the train. Also, on that platform there is a raised bit to the train level. However, there is a massive gap. I managed to get on anyway with my scooter, but I am not sure that any wheelchair would be able to get on without a ramp. The guy asked me, before I could see the gap, if I was able to get on and I said “I guess, if the platform is on the same level I should be fine” and he did not mention to get a ramp in case I could not. So, I assumed they did not have a ramp. And I was damn right!
Back to Friday night; It was 6pm-ish, when I got to Stratford station. I was looking for a staff member, but nobody was around. So, I pressed the information point bell and I asked for assistance, I said that I had to get off in TCR, and if where I was, was the right side of the platform to board to get step free access at my arrival. The guy who answered said he could see me from the camera and that I was perfect there. So, I boarded and guess what?!?! When I got to TCR I had a big step in front of me. Fortunately, I still am a bit mobile and I was on my scooter, which is very light, people helped me to get the scooter and myself off the train. Although I managed this does not mean that it is right. I could hurt myself or break the scooter. What if I was on my other wheelchair, which is super heavy? Where would I have ended up?
Besides, on the platform there was a staff member who could not care less of what just happened! He told me to speak to the staff at the gates. So, I went up and spoke to them and well, they apologized, they said that my scooter was very cool and techy and that they will report the incident. However, their attitude was not in any way whatsoever showing that they could care about the incident either.
What I am wondering now is…Why, why, why TfL did you announce that TCR was step-free when it actually is not? You can get from street level to the platform, but once you are there you cannot get on or off the train. YOU ONLY NEED TO GET A RAMP!!! It is not so difficult!
I can tell from this experience that none of the staff I talked to had a clue about the stations, whether they are step-free or not, if they have ramps or not. Most of the time I know more than them. On my way back home that night I was with my boyfriend so he could help me with the scooter and I was so upset with the staff that I did not even ask for assistance, why waste time when you do not get it anyway. So, we passed the gates and a staff member called me asking me where I was going and that there were only escalators…I was right in front of the lift. I asked him: “Do you work here or are you just hanging around? Are you aware that there are lifts here now?” This is absolutely ridiculous and horrendous. Incidents like this should not happen. In my opinion TfL staff are not get trained well enough. If we think of all the cases we hear, and we only hear about the ones that get public. Every day incidents like this are happening. On buses, where we cannot board because of prams or broken ramps or the drivers just do not stop (in case you want to add the other blog here is the link. On the tube, miscommunication between stations or not communication at all. What makes me angry the most is that everything could be organised in such an easy and efficient way, just by looking at how other countries work so well and are very efficient.
As soon as I got out of the station I did a live stream video on Facebook and tweeted about it, tagging TfL and I had no answer. Furthermore, I sent a formal complaint via email the following morning and also so far still no answer.
I am absolutely appalled by the service we receive and I hope TfL will take some proper actions and fix this problem as soon as possible.