The possibility of a new London railway station not having fully accessible platforms has been called an “absolute scandal” by a City Hall politician – as mayor Sadiq Khan pledged to personally get involved.
Caroline Pidgeon, a Liberal Democrat on the London Assembly, said it “beggars belief” that the Elizabeth line station at Old Oak Common, currently under construction and set to serve as an interchange with High Speed 2 (HS2), might not have step-free access for passengers.
Ms Pidgeon raised the issue at a Mayor’s Question Time session on Thursday.
She said: “A recent [written] question to the Department for Transport confirms that level boarding will not be available on Elizabeth line services at the new Old Oak Common station… Are you aware of this, Mr Mayor?”
Mr Khan said he was aware and he noted that the Lib Dem had been “assiduous” in campaigning for more step-free access across London’s transport network, adding that City Hall was “looking into” the issue at the new station.
He told the meeting: “As she’s aware, we’re really proud – and she’s been a critical friend of TfL [Transport for London] in this regard – that all 41 [Elizabeth line] stations are step-free at the moment.
“It would be heartbreaking if, when HS2 comes down, there wasn’t step-free [access] there as well.”
Ms Pidgeon – a former candidate for London mayor herself – said: “I just think in today’s world, it beggars belief that a brand new station cannot be fully step-free, when, as you describe, people [will] arrive on HS2 with luggage, buggies, and mobility aids.
“Are you taking this up yourself with the Department for Transport and can I urge you to write further on this, because I think this is an absolute scandal.”
Mr Khan replied: “Of course I can. What compounds your point is, this isn’t a station today, it’s [going to be] one in ten years’ time.
“And secondly, for a number of years, [the planned HS2 terminus at] Euston may not be open, which makes your point even more important.”
He said he was “happy to personally get involved” in the matter.
The new station will be located between the existing Elizabeth line stations at Paddington and Acton, on a large patch of land which is currently being redeveloped – north of Wormwood Scrubs and south of Willesden Junction.
The station is expected to open at some point in the early 2030s and will serve as the temporary terminus for HS2 trains travelling in and out of London from Birmingham.
Earlier this year, ministers announced that the construction of the line’s originally-planned terminus at Euston would be delayed until 2041 at the earliest, in an effort to reduce the project’s costs.
The written question referred to by Ms Pidgeon was lodged by the Lib Dem peer Baroness Jenny Randerson. She asked the Government “whether the current specification given to HS2 for the building of Old Oak Common station includes a requirement that disabled passengers must be able to embark and disembark from all (1) HS2, (2) Great Western Railway, and (3) Elizabeth Line trains, without needing to use manual boarding ramps”.
An answer was given earlier this month by Baroness Charlotte Vere, a junior transport minister.
She said: “The High Speed platforms at Old Oak Common station have been designed to enable level boarding. Passengers using the conventional rail platforms at the station will join services using several different types of rolling stock and the railway will also be used by important freight services.
“To ensure the railway can be used by all of these train services and provide maximum availability and resilience for passengers, there needs to be consistent platform heights across the conventional station platforms, which means level boarding will not be available on Great Western Railway and Elizabeth line services. The station is fully compliant with Network Rail standards.”