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How family friendly is the London Underground?

October 30, 2013 Gareth Powell. Director of Strategy & Service Development Rail & Underground

Guest Blog from Gareth Powell, Director of Strategy and Service Development for London Underground and London Rail (and also a dad!)

Below he answers questions posted by Gobaby App users in response to the question: “How family friendly is the London Underground?”

Mum Maria H posted: “This is obvious I know, but TfL making all/more tube and mainline stations step free would be great. Plus improving platform level access. I got my back wheel stuck between the train and the platform yesterday!”

Gareth answered: “We know that step-free access benefits a whole range of customers, including buggy users. Over the next ten years we’re making another 28 Tube and London Overground stations step-free, adding to the 104 we already have. This includes Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road, which will open up the West End, and Victoria, improving the link between south London rail services and Central London. All DLR and Croydon Tramlink stations are step-free. All newly-built Crossrail stations will also be step-free, so when this opens in 2018 it will make a huge difference to buggy users’ ability to travel east-west across London. Clearly we’ve still a long way to go, but at this time of financial uncertainty we are doing our best to focus on stations which will benefit as many people as possible. We’ll keep working at it.”

“I’m sorry to hear that you got your back wheel stuck. At many – although not all – of our step-free stations we have an area of the platform that is raised so as to be level and have a small horizontal gap, sometimes by way of a ‘platform hump’, and it could be good to look out for these when you board. These are in a consistent area for each line – so, for example, on the Victoria line the platform humps are in the centre of the platform. You can find out more for each station by visiting our Tube station pages. We are continuing to increase the number of platforms with level access, and have an active programme for installation on the Northern line. If you’ve not already found it, the Step-free Tube Guide gives detailed information about step-free access – both to platform and train – and includes step-free interchanges which are not shown on the standard Tube map. Because of the complexity of step-free access on our network it takes a little time to become familiar with, but once you have, we think you’ll find it a useful guide.”

Mum Becky R asked: “Can you explain what station staff are and aren’t able to help with?”

Gareth answered: “If you can carry your child, staff can assist by carrying your buggy on stairs or escalators – providing it is of a reasonable size and weight for someone to carry independently. There will always be times when they can’t help – for example if there is an incident in the station or if they are physically unable to (our staff come in all shapes and sizes!) – but they will help whenever they can. You might also be interested in downloading our Avoiding Stairs Tube Guide which, as the name suggests, shows you which stations you can use if you’d like to avoid stairs on your journey.”

Mum Audrey asked: “Are there carriages which prioritise prams versus wheelchairs?”

To which Gareth answered: “We do have multipurpose areas on many of our trains – District, Northern, Jubilee, Piccadilly, Victoria, Metropolitan lines and new trains on the Hammersmith & City and Circle lines – which can be used for buggies or luggage. The reason we have priority areas for wheelchair users is that it provides a safe space for them to travel in. This is one of the reasons that TfL have been running a campaign asking buggy users to ‘please make space for wheelchair users.’

Doofy tweeted: “Can you create a soft play carriage on each train?”

Gareth said: “What a brilliant idea! My kids would love that! Obviously we don’t have the space to provide this, but wouldn’t it be great if we did have?

Don’t forget (here comes the plug!) that the London Transport Museum has lots of facilities for families and children, including hands-on galleries where children can have a go at taking the wheel, a programme of half-term events for families, and family-friendly facilities – a baby changing room, a baby feeding room, step-free access, a cafe and a picnic area where you can bring your own food. Best of all, children under 16 are admitted free!”

More about Gareth

Gareth Powell joined TfL in 2003 and he is now the Director of Strategy & Service Development for London Underground & London Rail.

Gareth has a wide-ranging brief which includes the planning and specification of the organisation’s £billion investment programme, defining the organisation’s strategy, and planning services to ensure they meet the needs of the millions of customers who rely on TfL’s Tube and rail networks every day. In 2013 Gareth’s portfolio was extended to include operational responsibility for London Overground, the Docklands Light Railway, Tramlink and the Emirates Air Line.

Gareth joined TfL in 2003 from infrastructure consultancy WS Atkins.

Written by Jen Corlew

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