Mayor brings forward station step-free access target as TfL passes latest milestone.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has today brought forward a target for more than half of stations on Transport for London’s (TfL’s) Underground and rail network to be step-free, to 2018.

The Mayor’s Accessibility Implementation Plan, published in 2012, set out that half of Tube and TfL Rail stations would be step-free by 2020, but after the target of 45 per cent step-free access by 2015 was surpassed, the Mayor has set out a new plan for access levels.

This new target comes as it was announced that Brent Cross Underground station will become step-free with the installation of a lift making the station accessible to wheelchair users for the first time.  The station, which opened in 1923, was originally built with more than 30 steps between the street and platform.

The current programme will see a number of stations on the Tube made step-free this year, including Greenford, Tower Hill and Vauxhall. All of Crossrail’s 40 stations will have step-free access when the line fully opens, meaning that by 2018 over half of stations on all TfL networks will have step-free access. The Mayor will continue to prioritise funding for accessibility improvements within TfL and urges the Government to provide additional funding through its Access for All scheme to continue beyond 50 per cent of stations.

The installation of the lift at Brent Cross, which will make travelling at the station easier for anyone with mobility difficulties and those with luggage or small children, will cost around £10 million – with the majority of the sum expected to come from the Brent Cross Cricklewood project, which is developing the area.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “London has one of the most accessible public transport networks of any major city, but while we may be ahead of Paris and New York there is much more to be done to enable more people to get around the capital more easily. Brent Cross Tube station is the latest to benefit from our step-free programme and is a great example of how City Hall, TfL and the private sector can deliver improvements together. Today I’m urging London’s boroughs to come forward with nominations for other schemes so more people can benefit from easier station access right across the capital.”

In October 2014 the Mayor announced an extra £76 million fund for step-free access schemes where contributions can be found from developers and other third parties. The contribution from the Brent Cross development partners is expected to cover most costs of the lift project at the station, with Transport for London (TfL) providing top-up funds if required.

The £76 million step-free fund is expected to help around a dozen more stations become step-free and the Mayor is writing to all London boroughs to seek their nominations for other stations that could be made accessible. TfL is particularly seeking to fund stations that serve locations such as local town centres, or provide good interchanges for onward step-free travel. They will also need to be affordable, inclusive in design, feasible to build and have partnership funding contributions.

Gareth Powell, LU’s Director of Strategy and Service Development, said: “Making London’s rail network accessible to all customers is one of our key priorities and reaching this 45 per cent milestone shows the progress that has been made.  We are delighted that extra funding is going to help us reach 50 per cent two years earlier than expected. A combination of well-targeted public and private investment is really starting to open up travel opportunities for disabled people and will help thousands of shoppers with heavy bags and children avoid steps and escalators, making the station fully accessible to everyone. The £76 million step-free partnerships fund will mean that right across London more stations will be made step-free and our network becomes even more accessible.”

Dr Alice Maynard, Chair of TfL’s Independent Disability Advisory Group, said: “Step-free access at stations is one of the major factors that makes a difference between disabled people being able to travel alongside everyone else or having to take time-consuming alternatives. It’s encouraging to see what’s being done to open up the Tube and rail networks, from major stations like Victoria and Tottenham Court Road, to local projects serving communities at Greenford and Bromley-by-Bow. There is much more still to do, but with the 50 per cent milestone in sight and the Crossrail project soon to revolutionise rail access right through central London, real progress is being made towards an equal and accessible transport system.”

Feasibility studies for Brent Cross will now be commissioned, to draw up detailed costs, designs and timescales for the scheme, and it is thought that the lift could be in service by 2019.