Remembering disabled activists who campaigned for an accessible Elizabeth line
THIS week marks the opening of the highly anticipated Elizabeth Line, also known as Crossrail. In November 2014 the Department for Transport announced that all 41 stations along the Elizabeth line would be made step-free, following a hugely successful campaign by Transport for All in 2013 resulting in additional funding of £33 million sterling.
The Brixton-based Disabled People‘s Organization is celebrating the success of the campaign with its members and those who came together nearly a decade ago to fight for accessible transport for all. Without the commitment of these activists, today would be very different.
When the Crossrail designs were first drawn up, seven stations along the line were planned with no lift or stepless access: Hanwell in Ealing, Manor Park and Maryland in Newham, Seven Kings in Redbridge and Iver, Langley and Taplow .
They ran a hugely successful campaign combining political tactics including lobbying MPs, presenting an early day motion in Parliament and direct action in the form of rallies and demonstrations. Later this year, once all work is complete, all 41 stations along the line will have some degree of step-free access, either via level boarding or the use of a manual boarding ramp .
People with disabilities face a range of physical infrastructure, information and communication, and financial barriers to getting around. Transport for All member Paula Peters was one of the disability rights campaigners campaigning outside Crossrail’s head office at Canary Wharf in London on August 29, 2013.
“It was a very crowded event and we made a lot of noise. We weren’t going to give up until we could walk the line with the same freedom as everyone else. Supporting campaigns like this is vitally important because we are not advocating for fully accessible public transport for people with disabilities today, but for the future generations that will come after us.
“Each campaign victory means we are one step closer to fully accessible step-free public transport on the network and across the country – each victory brings the dream one step closer to reality.”
Transport for All is calling on policy makers to work towards greater accessibility, and the next big transport infrastructure project can and should go even further, integrating accessibility into designs from the start.
Caroline Stickland, CEO of Transport For All, said:
“For Transport for All, the initial plans for the seven Crossrail stations were unacceptable. Such a landmark infrastructure project simply could not be designed to be inaccessible to wheelchair users and many other disabled people. Today we celebrate and pay tribute to the brilliant campaigners who fought tirelessly to make the line more accessible to everyone.
“Beyond today’s celebrations, we still have a long way to go to achieve a fully accessible transport system in the UK. At least 20% of people in the UK are disabled – we need to make sure transport programs and services are open to everyone. Not just for big projects like Crossrail, but for existing transport routes across the country.
“It is thanks to the efforts of disabled activists a decade ago that the Elizabeth line will have the degree of accessibility it has. The work of Transport for All does not end with the launch of the line, however, and they will continue to fight for more accessible transport services.