How London Underground is helping disabled customers

The chief operating officer of London Underground responds to criticism of station overhauls


Last week, a blog on Left Foot Forward claimed that our Fit for the Future plans for London Underground (LU) would make it harder for disabled Londoners to access the Tube. In fact, the opposite is true. From the start, our plans have been based around people – our staff and customers – and are designed to improve the service for everyone. There are now 43 LU stations operating without a ticket window and customers are starting to see improvements across the network.

This includes more of our staff visible to help customers in ticket halls, at gate lines and on platforms. We already have, and will always have, staff at every station whenever trains are running. Together with London Overground we are the only UK railway to offer a ‘turn-up-and-go’ assistance service for people who need help from staff, with no need to pre-book. Having more staff in the public areas of the station makes it easier for people to access this service. We’re also making sure that every ticket hall has a ‘help point’, fitted with a hearing aid induction loop, so customers can contact staff whenever they need to.

In addition a new and comprehensive training programme being rolled out to all our station teams this year, to prepare them for their new roles. One of our key aims is to help staff support our disabled customers and, importantly, we are involving disabled people’s organisations in the design and delivery of that training. By next year, every LU station staff member will have had disability equality training, delivered by a disabled trainer.

In stations, we are changing our ticket machines to allow customers to make all the transactions they previously made at ticket offices – including refunds – and our staff will be there to support anyone who needs help using the machines. But, moving with the times, we’re also helping people use our services without any cash transaction, using contactless bank cards, Oyster cards and telephone and online services.

The other significant change people will see at stations is an improvement to information, with dedicated areas in stations for customer information, such as maps and leaflets, as well as improvements to signage. All of this will make the Tube simpler and more consistent to navigate. This helps everyone, but particularly those who find the network challenging or confusing at present. Staff are also being equipped with mobile devices loaded with information including maps, real-time service updates, our Journey Planner, ticket options and much more – so they’ll always have information at their fingertips to help customers.

Dozens of ticket halls are now operating without a ticket office, and early signs show that the new arrangements are working well. Our passengers using stations without tickets offices are telling us they are more satisfied with the experience than they were before the changes. In particular, staff have been proven to be more available and more helpful at stations operating our new customer service model.

As our changes roll out across the network this year, we will keep focused on our core promises to customers: more staff on hand to help, better information to help plan and make journeys, and a range of ways to pay to suit all needs.

Disabled Londoners wanting to start using London Underground (or any other type of transport in the city) can be helped by TfL’s travel mentoring service. It works across the Capital to build the knowledge and confidence people need to make the most of the transport network. Contact [email protected] or 020 3054 4361 for more information, or visit the TfL website.

Nick Brown is the chief operating officer of London Underground

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