Many people have been giving Crossrail, aka the Elizabeth Line, huge plaudits for its accessibility. But according to a recent report which has been drawn up by RAIL, it isn’t exactly a standard that complies with the national requirements. The Elizabeth Line has wonderful new trains and platforms but consistency in regards to access onto trains and at stations is another matter.
This matter revolves around findings by RAIL magazine, who approached Caroline Pidgeon for her views on the matter. The article can be seen in the current issue of RAIL. By the way this issue has been brought up before but few took any notice….
Crossrail station platform heights above rail are 1100mm central section, 1000mm on NR eastern side and 850mm on GW with the UK standard 915.
So step free access in centre, but ramps and staff needed everywhere else.
So much for standardisation! https://t.co/39Ey3sNnmn
— tony berkeley (@tonyberkeley1) May 17, 2018
There hasn’t been a survey or anything, the only information on it is this parliamentary question and answer, the link to that is in the above tweet. What is clear is Crossrail’s been allowed to use a platform and train height that isn’t the usual standard. Its not known what TfL itself thinks regarding this matter.
RAIL Magazine article detailing Caroline Pidgeons’ response to Crossrail’s incompatibility
Therefore, this is what Caroline Pidgeon told RAIL magazine when she was informed of the matter:
“Crossrail will deliver wonderful new trains, 200 metres long, the same length as two football pitches. And thanks to extensive campaigning every station that runs through London will have step-free access. It is, however, a huge disappointment that there will be no consistency in platform heights along the whole of the route, making journeys for people with disabilities unnecessarily complicated and burdensome.” (Source: RAIL)
Its the fact Crossrail has trains that are a certain height and therefore its new stations’ platforms match that and why their platforms are 1,100mm above rail level. The authorities in question, the DfT, have given Crossrail (and thus the Elizabeth Line) a special dispensation (not derogation) to operate non standard trains which give issues elsewhere on the system outside of the central core section between Paddington-Abbey Wood.
Has the Class 345 and Crossrail/Elizabeth Line been built to appropriate accessible standards?
By a strange coincidence the same mistake was made 20 years ago in Paris when the RER E tunnel was built with 1200 mm high platforms instead of the usual 920 mm of the Parisian suburban network.
New stock has since been introduced with passengers having to step down to board… pic.twitter.com/OfWDdgZLIa
— Nicholas Brooke (@NicholasNCE) August 1, 2018
What I get from the tweets I have seen on the matter is that the Class 345s could not be built to the national standard of 915mm without major modifications hence the DfT allowed higher Crossrail platforms. Essentially this 1,100mm is a standard peculiar to London for the London Overground and Heathrow Express also use it – and no doubt the DfT saw no problems in further use of this most peculiar standard.
The design of these new Crossrail trains also includes a step because it forms the means by which the train doors stay in a straight line and in position. Instead of having grooves like on some other stock, its a step but it does not make the stock completely step-free as some will find it difficult to negotiate.
As an example in inconvenience disabled users travelling from Heathrow and then westwards to Slough, Maidenhead and even Reading will have quite a bit of hassle in using the trains. Instead of easy interchange for westward services, it means its out with the ramps at Hayes, lifts up and over the platforms, out with the ramps once again to get on a westbound class 345, and at their destination station its out with the ramps again, and vice versa. It isnt just get on and off trains as in the central core stations.
The alternative is to go to Paddington and then take a train back westwards! Despite accessibility and the rest of it there’s always some super-duper hurdle system that means it will unfortunately take some disabled people hours to travel on what would perhaps be a mere ten or twenty minute journey for most others.
Crossrail’s blurb: Quicker and easier step free journeys. Spotted at Forest Gate
It just means the huge lobbying to get Crossrail to be fully accessible has been serviced a smack in the face. Remember accessibility was a late add on to the Crossrail specification and that was only done because people had protested in anger. The step up into the train seems some sort of contrived attempt to shoehorn higher than usual floor levels into what could plausibly be seen to be a more accessible train design when it is not really such. I mean, whatever is this thing that’s called ‘level access’ when designers have inserted a fixed step into their designs?
It means the Class 345s are trains that do not match the hoped for national standard and also means all the stations outside of the core section (eg Acton Main Line to Reading and Stratford to Shenfield) will need to have their platforms raised (or lowered) otherwise there isnt really any ‘step free’ access at all.
Crossrail’s blurb: Quicker and easier step free journeys. This example is at Hayes
By maintaining platforms that are the same 1,100mm height its a big problem because other operators trains with lower floor profiles in order to comply with the national standard of 915mm will find a step up onto the platforms. The risk of this is therefore to give one train line a monopoly on disability access – the Elizabeth Line.
One will be able to get ‘anywhere’ from Shenfield/Reading/Heathrow/Abbey Wood and the blurb being used is ‘quicker and easier step free journeys’ but it will be, as RAIL has found and Caroline Pidgeon has concurred, a system with major logistical problems for those who wish to venture beyond the Paddington-Abbey Wood section and the Heathrow terminals.
Clearly another set of spanners has been thrown into the works in the quest for an accessible standard and seeing that trains have a peculiarly long life that means we could see this non-standard accessible system in use for what, the next forty years or so?