Richmond – Hammersmith & Return. Est 15mins
Since I last posted about this I’ve heard that TfL have yet to supply any answer to Zac Goldsmith, my MP, let alone a good one. I’ve also heard back from my contact at LU who asserts that there have never been ramps at Hammersmith, which I’m prepared to concede, and that the platform was too low and too narrow at the designated wheelchair spaces to allow use of a ramp with a shallow enough gradient.
Although I’d only passed through Hammersmith, this didn’t seem to me to be the case. By coincidence I had meeting scheduled in Hammersmith today so I decided to investigate for myself.
I purchased (at not small expense) a lightweight ramp and set off feeling like a Victorian explorer pushing boundaries and discovering the inner secrets of some dark continent.
I arrived at Richmond and did something very liberating, something that I haven’t done in many years. I didn’t look for any assistance. I simply unfolded my ramp and boarded the train just like any other passenger. I didn’t realise just what a profound effect this simple act of independence would have.
In the interests of full disclosure I need to admit that I did stop the driver on the platform to tell him I’d be on his train, and that I’d be getting off at Hammersmith. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get off and I wanted to make sure he was watching for me. He volunteered to contact control and let them know I was coming.
The journey to Hammersmith was uneventful.
Arriving at Hammersmith, the doors opened and sure enough there was plenty of space. The ramp was laid down, I left the train, job done. I must confess my ramp is short, so the slope was a bit steep for comfort, but yay, I was off. Interestingly on the way to the lift a rather startled LU Staff member checked that I’d come off the train and was the person he was supposed to meet.
After my meeting I set off on the return journey, with a little more apprehension. This was going to be a very steep slope to get back on board.
I made my way down to the platform, without assistance or incident, and checked the electronic display which said the next train was bound for Richmond. I then looked down the platform and realised that it was true, some parts of the platform weren’t wide enough to deploy a ramp, but before I could properly digest this I noticed something else. Like many stations a section of the platform had been built up, and there were no width problems on this section.
I moved up the platform ready to jump on just as the train arrived. But wait, the destination on the train said Ealing Broadway. With platform signs and train signs giving different destinations, and no audible announcements, I figured the train probably knew best and I stayed put.
Sure enough after the train departed the platform sign announced the next train was Ealing bound, which didn’t agree with the Richmond destination the train thought it had when it arrived. I decided to bite the bullet, deployed the ramp and boarded the train, easily from the raised platform which had also been painted with the Diamond sign indicating where wheelchairs should board.
Unlike the journey in there were no audible announcements. This startled the passenger next to me when she realised we were at Gunnersbury and not heading to Ealing as the signs at Hammersmith had said. I suggested she contact TfL with the train number 7014 before she left at Kew to backtrack.
When we arrived back at Richmond I discovered something obvious that I’d not noticed before. The platform here is also raised in a section to improve access, the same section as at Hammersmith.
I draw three conclusions from today’s experience.
- Accurate announcements and displays are vital for ALL passengers, disabled or otherwise,
- LU CAN install and operate ramps at Hammersmith, just like Richmond,
- I’ve wasted £800 in the last year alone on taxis to and from Hammersmith when I could have used the underground, not to mention the portable ramp for this experiment.