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Give the new Elizabeth Line full level access to give independence to disabled people

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The London Underground’s new £15.4 billion Elizabeth Line is due to open at the end of 2019. Only 13 out of 41 stations on the new network will have level access for wheelchair users and those with mobility requirements. This is unacceptable.

This petition calls for all 41 stations on the newly built and generously funded Elizabeth Line network to have full level access in the form of raised platforms which will fully remove the step between the platform and the tube.

If level access is not given throughout the Elizabeth Line, wheelchair users like me will be forced to rely on a complex, tedious and unreliable system that is already in operation today across the Transport for London and public transport network. It does not work today and will not work for the new Elizabeth Line.

The system that TfL are planning to implement involves manual ramps. In order to use a ramp, a disabled person is forced to scour the whole station in search for someone that can deploy a ramp. If a station is unmanned or overstretched, a disabled person is left stranded. Help points with its low volumes in a loud environment and being situated at difficult to reach heights for wheelchair users are incredibly ineffective. Ramps are regularly damaged, lost, or labelled ‘not in use’ for long periods of time, many of which are out of use for over six months.

If a ramp can be found and deployed, there is a tedious and unreliable communication system where staff get in contact with the disabled person’s intended arrival station. This is to let the staff at the person's arrival station know that a ramp will be needed to assist the person with a disability or mobility requirement off the tube once they arrive. This long-winded process often ends with staff unable to get in contact with each other and eventually no one turning up to assist the person with a disability or mobility requirement off the tube once they arrive. This causes huge anxiety and distress for people like wheelchair users and those with mobility requirements.

In the end, disabled people often find themselves miles away from home, where they needed or simply wanted to be. We are denied our choice and freedom to travel.

I am a wheelchair user and I am not alone. My experiences speak for the many.

Last year I missed a university interview because no one was there to meet me with a ramp to assist me off the tube – I ended up at Heathrow Airport when I should have been in central London. This is not an isolated, one off experience. This happens all too often because of the current system in operation. This same system will be used on the new Elizabeth Line network unless our voices are heard and acted upon.

The solution is this – implement raised platforms giving all travellers ‘level access’ which fully removes the need for manual ramps across the new Elizabeth Line network. This means that the step between the platform and the tube doors would be removed – effectively raising the platform. Clearly signposted partially raised platforms is also an option.

If you can fund a new underground line, you can fund our access too.

The Mayor of London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charge is due to begin in April 2019. People with disabilities and mobility requirements who have already been hit hard by austerity and other measures will now be forced to rely on inaccessible public transport more than ever before to get around. It is therefore ever more incumbent on the Mayor and City Hall to take urgent action by implementing level access.

The Government say they want to get one million more disabled people into work. Disabled people do and always will contribute to society but how can we be expected to do this with ease when our public transport system fails us? £15.4 billion has been spent on the new line, surely some of it could have been used to facilitate level access giving independence and freedom for everyone to travel on the new Elizabeth Line. Instead, money has been spent on improving visual appearances outside of stations by planting flowers and painting the walls.

If you can fund tulips and daisies, you can fund our access too.

There are no excuses – public transport should be easily accessible for all.

Please share your experiences and support by signing this petition and tweeting me @Liam_Islam using the hashtag #LevelAccessNow.