Accessibility trial finds journeys on public transport in London take almost 50% longer for wheelchair users

An experiment testing the accessibility of public transport in London has found commutes take almost 50 per cent longer for wheelchair users.

The Going The Extra Mile case study for Islington, however, found it took just one minuter longer for wheelchair user Raquel to get from Arsenal to Angel than it would for an able-bodied person.

It’s fair to say that was a surprise, as even TfL predicted it would take 29 minutes longer for her given the fact Arsenal – like 71pc of all Tube stations – is not fully accessible and she would have to take the 43 bus.

“Once the taxi dropped me off I then had to push myself to the right bus stop,” she said. “I use Google Map’s satellite function to determine the state of the pavement I’d need to take. Fortunately, on this occasion, it was relatively even and flat, and there was a slope to help me cross the roads.”

TfL predicted it would take 13 minutes for an able-bodied person and 32 for a wheelchair user – it actually took 22 and 23.

The outcomes weren’t so good for other tests in the trial carried out by solicitors Bolt Burdon Kemp, though. A simple nine-minute commute from Liverpool Street to King’s Cross took an astounding 32 minutes for a wheelchair user, whose only option was to take the 205 bus. Across all five case studies the journeys took 49pc longer than they did for able-bodied commuters.

Wheelchair uses flagged the difficulties they have planning journeys such as having to cross-check apps due to them not catering for wheelchair users, and having to use Google Maps to check the state of pavements.

One revealed some bus drivers had difficulty activating the ramp and even asked her for guidance.

All of London’s buses are accessible, and can “kneel” to pavement level to help disabled passengers board. Almost all of London’s bus stops are also accessible now too, thanks to an £18m project.

Mark Evers, London Underground’s chief customer officer, said: “We are aware of the challenges our disabled customers face and we are constantly trying to do better.

“We fully recognise that there is much more to do to make our services more accessible to all Londoners and we’re working hard to achieve this. There are now more than 200 step-free stations across our network, all of London’s buses are accessible, and we operate a turn-up-and-go assistance service on the Tube, London Overground, and TfL Rail which means that those who need assistance can arrive at stations and have staff help them with boarding and alighting without having to book in advance.

“London has one of the most accessible transport networks in the world, but we know it can still be difficult for some Londoners to get around. We are sorry that on average journey times were longer for wheelchair users.

“We are always looking at how we can improve accessibility and welcome any feedback which will enable us to improve services on our network and give a greater choice of travel options.”