When you’re travelling to major cities, whether for work or for pleasure, one of the first things you’ll need to work out is how you’re going to get around. Travel guides often don’t provide adequate information for disabled people, but this guide to underground train systems in the UK can help you decide whether or not public transport is going to be a viable option for you.
The London Underground
Not all stations on the London Underground offer level access or lift access for disabled users, but those which do are well distributed, so you can still get close to most locations. You can call 0845 330 9880 for advice. It is possible to sign up for a text alert system that will warn you if lifts are out of action, and staff are always available to help at the station.
Buying your ticket at the station is easy, with lower level ticket machines for wheelchair users and induction loops for the hard of hearing. Unfortunately there is a long way to walk at some stations between the street access point and the platforms, but staff can sometimes take you through short cuts. If the platform is too low for easy train access, look out for specially raised areas.
All London Underground trains have priority seating for disabled passengers and spaces for wheelchairs. The system can become extremely crowded during peak times and travellers with health problems should note that some underground stations can get very hot in summer.
The Glasgow Subway
The Glasgow Subway is small, with quick access to all platforms so that you won’t have to walk far from the entrance. Unfortunately, access to almost all stations is via steps, with only St Enoch and Partick stations having full escalator access. The escalators are often out of order, so even these cannot be relied on. There is no lift access to stations.
If you can manage steps, you’ll find that they are kept in good condition and have good solid handrails. Larger stations have benches where passengers can wait, but these are the narrow, tilted sort that many disabled people find difficult to use. Fortunately, trains are usually only five minutes apart.
Entry to stations is via narrow turnstiles but staff will open a gate for you if you have difficulty with these. Overcrowding on the trains is only a problem at peak times and between two and six on Saturdays during the football season. Trains have priority seats for disabled people and numerous poles you can use to help yourself get upright. There are no station announcements but most blind users find it easy to count the stops as there are only fifteen stations in total.
A hybrid system with some very old stations and some modern ones, Merseyrail is quite variable when it comes to access. For details of which stations are more accessible, you can call 0800 0277 347 (textphone service available). As long as they have at least an hour’s notice, staff can be on hand to assist at any station – to book, call 0151 702 2704.
Trains are well designed for disabled access, with priority seating and with reserved spaces for standard size wheelchairs and mobility scooters. There are poles you can use for support and those stations where you’ll need to negotiate steps all have good handrails.
Tyne and Wear Metro
As the Tyne and Wear Metro is a hybrid underground and light rail system, some parts of it are more accessible than others. Several stations have full wheelchair access but some passengers still run into difficulty getting their wheelchairs safely onto trains where there is too wide a gap between the platform and the train door, and as some stations are unmanned, there may be no staff available to help. The best advice is to try and plan your route so as to use only staffed or new-build stations.
At present, mobility scooters are not allowed on the metro, but this is expected to change in the near future, so watch this space.