Trams as a means of public transport are making a come back across the UK, and other European cities, as local authorities realise the importance of reducing road traffic congestion.
At present there are six tram systems in the UK and these are at: Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Croydon and Blackpool. In addition there is a light rail system, Docklands Light Railway, that runs through London. All except Blackpool, because a large proportion of its fleet of trams are vintage vehicles, are wheelchair user friendly, although this will change in the coming years as more modern trams are introduced at this popular tourist destination.
Edinburgh,and possibly other cities, are set to revive their tram network as well, making it easier, compared to bus travel, for disabled travellers to get around busy cities.
Modern trams are fully accessible for wheelchair users,with step free access and level boarding. There are also designated wheelchair user spaces on each tram,with many having a specially sited intercom to allow passengers in wheelchairs to speak to the driver should they need assistance.
Crossing Between Platforms
Due to their very nature many tram stops have no footbridges and the only way to get from one platform to the other is by going down the slope at the end of the platform and crossing the railway. As most tram stops will not have any staff it is vitally important that great care is taken when crossing tracks, that are fully paved to enable a smooth transition between platforms.
Trams will not usually be travelling very fast at these locations, as they will be preparing to stop and there is usually a good view in either direction, enabling a wheelchair user to see an approaching tram.
Special care must be taken if you are crossing from one platform to the other from behind a stopped tram, as a departing tram from the other platform will not always have a good view of the crossing because of the stopped tram obscuring the view. At such times it is advisable to wait for the tram nearest to you to depart before crossing. If the tram shares a station with the national rail system there will usually be lifts to enable wheelchair users to access these platforms, as crossing these lines is strictly prohibited.
Once on board the tram, many of which have onboard staff to assist passengers, you should move into the wheelchair space, of which there are normally two and apply the handbrake to the wheelchair. Here there will be convenient grabs within easy reach to help you and a tram stop request button, also within easy reach. In addition the door will have an opening button at an accessible height for wheelchair users.
Transport for London allow free travel to wheelchair users on their trams. London’s Docklands Light Railway is fully accessible to wheelchair users and was the first rail system in the UK to be fully accesible. Each train has a customer service assistant onboard to help passengers. Like the other tram systems across the UK, there is no need to book in advance and wheelchair users are able to just turn up at the station. Passengers who use electric mobility scooters should check first that the tram operator is able to accommodate their scooter.