query about getting around London and transport

  • query about getting around London and transport

    Posted by susieb on January 18, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    My specialist has said that I can travel to London from Sydney later this year. There is a medical congress for my rare condition so I would like to attend.  I will be travelling on my own.

    I am wondering if people could share there experience in relation to getting around London with disabilities. I know that a lot of the train stations are not accessible and I am thinking buses may work better for me.

    I use a walking stick and have very poor balance. I am not able to do many steps and need a rail. I walk quite slowly. I find at home near public transport people sometimes kick my stick as they try and pass me. I also have a vision impairment with no peripheral vision or night vision and I have hearing aids.

    Before I got diagnosed with my neurological condition a few years I travelled by myself to US. At that stage I was only aware of my vision impairment. When I went to Washington DC I have found I could not travel by train. Some of the escalators down to the train station were very long and they were too fast for me to get on and off. I also found that I could not see anything inside the station even with my torch. I was later told that they don’t have money to upgrade the station so the lighting is very poor. I ended up getting buses as I felt safer.

    In relation to London I have read that even if a station is accessible the trains get really crowded and people push one another. I don’t think I would be able to cope with that. So for planning the trip buses may be better for me. Any thoughts or helpful hints? Thanks Susie 

    valentinaexplores replied 4 years, 6 months ago 4 Members · 4 Replies
  • 4 Replies
  • taska

    January 18, 2020 at 7:26 pm

    I am a wheelchair user with an assistance dog, without sensory impairments.

    London is an amazing city, but the kerbs are different heights, the pavement can be unreliable, and the streets can be busy. Travel links are good, but can be daunting.

    I know asking for help sucks, and we would all rather do things on our own, but- there is help at every rail station that’s manned, all you need to do is let someone at the station know that you need help. You can do this in advance through Network Rail.  https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/disabled_passengers.aspx

    On the underground (https://tfl.gov.uk/transport-accessibility/contact-us-about-accessibility), and on the buses (http://www.arrivaraillondon.co.uk/customer-information/accessibility), there is help available which you can either book in advance or “TUAG” (turn up and go).

    From my experience, people have been helpful, but it can be very crowded and you can get jostled. 
    People in England, even in London, tend to keep to themselves a bit and might not offer assistance but if you were to ask pretty much anyone for help they would at least provide the minimum assistance. 

    Queues are important here, mostly, but disabled people can go to the front of a queue for a bus or train.  Just ask the person at the front to be polite- they will say yes (unless they are a tweedle, we as all places have a few of those).

     London Taxies are legendary when it comes to their accessibility and reliability… they know where everything is. So, a taxi might be dear, but useful.

    One of my friends is on the “Transport for All” group (https://twitter.com/AlansTweets) – if you tweet him to make contact he can give you some very specific and reliable information about accessible travel in London, how to get the best help, and where to find out more.

    Hope that help!


  • Josh Grisdale

    January 19, 2020 at 10:47 am

    I asked around and got the following suggestion from a kind soul on Quora:

    Use Plan a journey (https://tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey/)

    This, is a complete godsend with many different options for accessibility. And is particularly helpful on the fly.

    I would suggest a couple of caveats:

    If you are changing forms of transport at a station, check that the proposed exit is accessible. I came across this with Waterloo during my last London trip. Coaches into Victoria and anything else away from Victoria is particularly difficult as well (the best way is to ask a staff member to let you on to the Gatwick express platform, and use that lift to get down to Victoria train station. They won’t charge if you’re just using it for the lift.)

    The other thing to bear in mind is the “Maximum walking distance” option. If you are changing bus stops that are classified as the same station (Getting off at stop A then boarding the next bus at stop C, for instance) it does not include the distance between the stops. Even if that distance is upwards of a quarter of a mile!! So be sure to check out that. Google maps should give you the route between the stops if you enter the stop name and letter (ie Oxford Street stop BC) in the start and finish points.

    I would also recommend printing the most important routes (hotel-station and back, at the very least).

    You can get the accessibility information for each station from the travel planner as well as individually elsewhere on the tfl website. Check the travel planner “alerts” before you go to each station because they often contain information about broken lifts and escalators.

    If using national rail services, especially if using a smaller station even if accessible, try to book any assistance in advance. They say a few hours but I’ve frequently booked with less (even when the advised notice was 24h) and they will do their best to accommodate you. A big benefit of this is, if they are unable to carry you because of your disability & unexpected circumstances like cancellations making the trains too packed, is that they ought to make alternative arrangements. Even if that’s a taxi – on their dime!

    Finally, avoid rush hour! It is difficult for an able bodied tourist but essentially impossible to navigate with a stick. But also don’t be afraid to ask people for directions. Some will be a bit short with you but if in a station the staff are almost always angels! Most people will do their best to help but they won’t be aware of the accessibility situation either.

  • susieb

    January 19, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks to all of you for your detailed and helpful replies.  Can anyone recommend an easy to read map to find most accessible routes,  etc.  Thanks

  • valentinaexplores

    January 19, 2020 at 7:56 pm

    Hi Susie

    I lived in and around London for many years and use an electric wheelchair myself. 

    You are completely correct in thinking that busses are the best mode of transport. However, all the transport in London comes with its own challenges. 

    Busses can often be put “out of service” before you have completed your journey. They can also be busy at times. Good point is that one is never far away. So if you can’t access one, too busy or space being used, moments later another will arrive. 

    As for the underground, this is getting better. I have been caught out in the past when the station said it was accessible, but then had to navigate steps. Many stations now have step-free access onto trains and lifts to get to and from the platform. See Transport for London website for maps and access information. You can request this in large print and audio maps too. https://tfl.gov.uk/forms/12387.aspx.

    I advise you to chose your time to travel. The rush hour is 7 am until 9.30 am and again from 4.30 pm until 6.30 pm. If you can avoid these times when traveling, then you will have a much nicer experience. Like many cities, London is not without its faults, but overall is a lovely place to visit and navigate using a wheelchair. Most of the museums and attractions are very accessible. I truly hope you have a wonderful trip and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

    Happy travels Grinning

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