London’s Underground stations were built before the days of Access For All, as were many of the stations on the National rail network. However, while the latter can be made accessible to those with walking and mobility difficulties, as well as passengers with heavy luggage, babies, pushchairs and other encumbrances, it’s not so simple in the underground.
While most stations have escalators, they don’t all have lifts – or even any shafts to put them in. So adding a lift from street to platform level has involved taking the hideously expensive step of digging a new shaft.
An incline lift doesn’t just go up and down, as any other lift does. Instead, it travels on a gradient. So it can replace a set of stairs or an escalator in its original shaft, without the need to dig a new, vertical one.
London’s first incline lift has just opened at Greenford station, in Ealing. As well as being easier and cheaper to install, it also uses 50 per cent less power than a conventional lift.
David Waboso, London Underground’s director of capital programmes, said: “The new incline lift is spacious, quick, and provides much-needed step-free access to our customers at Greenford. It is cheaper to install and cheaper to run and I am hopeful we can introduce this innovation elsewhere on the Tube network in the future.”
In addition to the new incline lift, Greenford station has also seen the installation of a new escalator and construction of a staircase. The men’s toilet on the platform has also been replaced with a unisex accessible toilet and more lighting and better signage has been installed.
Around 40 more Underground and Overground stations will become step-free over the next 10 years as part of a £326 million investment, which includes funding from the Mayor and London Underground. This will include major stations such as Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Vauxhall and Victoria and those delivered through the Step-Free Access Partnership Fund.