Saturday, 6 February 2010

"Mind the gap..."

are words I remember from my terrifying journeys on London Underground. I am not sure I could actually handle the Underground any more. The local transport system is causing enough trouble.
We have two railway stations fairly close to us. I use one in preference to the other. To get to the first one there is a journey up a quite steep little rise and then through a very awkward underpass. There are barriers on either side of the underpass. These were designed, supposedly, to stop the local boys from flying through on their bikes. It has slowed them down slightly but it has not stopped them. They simply use the barriers as exercise bars .
What has happened is that the underpass is unusable for anyone on a gopher or in a wheelchair. Baby strollers and my tricycle get stuck. Those of us with access issues mormally use the other station.
Once you do access the station there are other access issues. The platform is about 30cms lower than the trains - and there is the gap between the platform and the train as well.
The driver is supposed to render assistance to anyone who needs it by putting down a ramp taken from a locked box. Drivers hate doing it. The system is not safe. At the local station I am speaking of it is positively dangerous - although the ramp is made to Disability Standards Number Whatever. They do not put the ramp down for bicycles and my tricycle is classed as a bicycle. There needs to be a change in the law before they will acknowledge that it is not a bicycle.
My father thought he would try the train the other day. He walked up to the first station. It is quite a walk. He managed to get his walker through the underpass. He stood at the marked point for assistance - and got none. One of the passengers helped him on to the train. At the terminus in the city there is no problem about getting out - apart from the gap - because the platforms have been made level with the trains.
Coming home he needed assistance to get off - and again got none. The swivel wheels on his walker got caught in the gap between the train and the platform. It was his sheer good fortune that a passenger saw his plight and assisted.
I reported all this as a serious safety issue and had a meeting with three railway employees at the station yesterday. I made a suggestion with respect to signage which will be carried out right along the line but the gap is a different story.
The gap is there to stop trains hitting the platform and derailing. The gap is a safety issue anywhere in the world where there are trains.
It seems that we can build a space station and a docking bay for the astronauts to enter and exit it. We cannot build something to bridge the gap.


Rachel Fenton said...

I remember getting the wheels of my daughter's buggy trapped "in the gap" between British train and platform. After watching me struggle for five minutes the ticket master came out to tell me off for holding the train up and then walked off! I ended up having to yank the buggy so hard that the offending wheel came clean off and rendered my buggy useless. That was a very expensive train ride - so much for cheap public transport!

Here in Auckland there is no thought given to wheeled access of any kind - not even the shopping centres seem to make any provision - and when they do it is dome with such lack of thought that anyone who uses the wheelchair/buggy access is made to feel like a second class citizen as the lifts and ramps are in obscure places away from the main entrances. And don't even get me started on the toilets!
Apparently, one in every five NZers consider themselves disabled.

catdownunder said...

I imagine that 1 in 5 would if access is that bad. I think I would have complained to British Rail - and then got the media on the job. (Actually I found access and attitudes in Britain better than it is here.)

Tony said...

Take it from one who knows; if you think anything about British Rail is better than here in Australia, you just haven't lived there long enough. British Rail (which doesn't really exist now that the whole system has been privatised and chopped up for dozens of companies to suck blood from) is a shambles. When back home, I only travel by coach.

Holly said...

The Underground has not improved. Not just mobility issues, there is no signage. Changes are announced occasionally in a garbled tone audible and understandable only to a young, native speaker.

No help at all for the hearing impared to wind up at platforms only to find closures or delays.

And we will not talk about all those stations where there are no lifts.

Nor about British Rail which says - sorry for the inconvience as the young man gets off at Ascot on Platform three only to find out that there is no way down to the underpass or up onto Platform 1 other than being carried by a bunch headed to a rugby match.....

Obviously, being blown up in Afghanistan is easier than traveling by SW Train service...

catdownunder said...

But Tony you live in Melbourne, not Adelaide - our aged system is crumbling and Mike Rann is more interested in appearing at the Tour Down Under than at a railway station!

catdownunder said...

We just have long, long ramps at some stations Holly.