London Underground: Plea for disabled Londoners as crucial Tube upgrades could be put on hold

There is just one day to go until Transport for London (TfL) technically runs out of money to be able to cover its day-to-day costs.

It means that unless the transport authority obtains another emergency funding agreement from central government, it will have to start reducing how much it spends dramatically.

One of the largest concerns is that accessibility projects will have to be frozen indefinitely.

It means the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, would be unable to meet his target of 40 per cent of the network being step-free by 2024 and that disabled Londoners would be disproportionately affected by the cuts.

With Westminster accusing the Mayor of ‘scaremongering’ and City Hall urging the government to stop ‘levelling down London ‘,one London MP has asked the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to “to put the needs of Londoners above politics” and come to an agreement with TfL and the Mayor to provide adequate funding to protect accessibility schemes on London’s transport network.

Vicky Foxcroft is the Shadow Minister for Disabled People and the Labour MP for the South East London constituency for Lewisham Deptford.

In a letter seen by MyLondon, she pleads with Mr Shapps: “Public transport is a lifeline for wheelchair users in London, saving them time and money whether they live here or are visiting.

“Therefore the recent news that Transport for London is preparing to cut bus services and cancel planned step-free upgrades because the Government has not yet provided sufficient financial support is extremely concerning.

“TfL’s Finance Committee papers warn that one in five bus routes may be cut if sufficient funding is not agreed. Nearly every one of London’s 9,000-strong bus fleet is fully accessible and disabled Londoners rely heavily on them to access parts of the city where they can’t use other elements of the transport network. These cuts will have a huge impact on the lives of disabled Londoners.”

The papers mentioned were alluded to at a TfL Board meeting earlier this week (December 8) where board members urged that accessibility should not go ‘out the window’.

A ‘Managed Decline’ scenario would mean just £10 million allocated to TfL’s Healthy Streets programme which means there would not be enough money to make streets safer for those with mobility issues.

Julian Bell, former Ealing Council leader, told the TfL Board:“£10million’s not gonna go anywhere.”

Ms Foxcroft’s letter continues: “The papers also state that if the transport network enters a period of Managed Decline, there will be no new Step-Free Access schemes other than those already under construction and existing schemes will be prone to more frequent failures.

“While the current Mayor has made excellent progress with 16 Tube stations being made step-free since 2016, I am concerned that without a fair, sustainable long-term funding deal we will take a huge step back in terms of progress made to make our city accessible for everyone.

“Disabled Londoners are already seeing the impacts of the punitive conditions the Government has imposed on the city – step-free access schemes at Boston Manor, North Ealing, Park Royal, Rickmansworth, Ruislip and Snaresbrook are still on pause due to a lack of funding.”

The aforementioned stations were expected to have step-free access schemes completed by 2022.

Of the 272 London Underground stations, just 83 are currently step-free meaning many people unable to use stairs are unable to enjoy the freedom and autonomy London’s public transport network can provide.

She concludes: “It is essential that the Government agrees a fair and long-term funding deal with TfL and the Mayor to ensure that this scenario does not become a reality.

“A fully functioning and accessible public transport system in our capital city is essential to millions of Londoners, to businesses, to tourists and for our fight against the climate crisis.

“The Mayor is ready to put the needs of Londoners above politics, and I hope that you are willing to do the same.”

The deadline for a funding agreement is 11.59pm tomorrow (December 11).

The worst case scenario would be expected to kick in shortly after unless a last minute deal is made.


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