Richmond – Waterloo – Holborn – Return
You will have noticed, if you’ve read much of this drivel that I commit to the eternal archive of embarrassment that is the internet, that it is possible, with a little thought, cunning and extra money, to overcome the transport barriers faced by a wheelchair user, at least this wheelchair user. If the tube is impossible, as is so often the case, then resorting to above ground modes like buses or taxis might work. As soon as you hit roads though you are subject to the vagaries of delays caused by unpredictable traffic. Above ground also simply moves slower than subterranean meaning that getting from A to B is just slower.
I was therefore pleasantly surprised, nay shocked, to discover today that the step free route for my journey as suggested by TfL took the same time as the non step free route. Well, that’s not entirely true.
TfL has a very clever journey planner online (I use the word clever ironically) which lets you specify, as an option, a step free journey. So, as I often do before setting out, I put in the journey details, Richmond to Holborn, and pressed the button to spin the dials and spit out a route. It did come up with a route, which it doesn’t always do, but it didn’t look right. The time for the journey, 1 hour and 9 minutes, seemed a bit long, but the really confusing bit was why it would suggest the best way to Waterloo from Richmond is via the District Line with a change at Westminster. For those that don’t know, and I thought the journey planner was one of those, Richmond is on the South West Trains mainline between Waterloo and Reading. There are direct trains roughly every 10 minutes. Only, it turns out the journey planner DOES know about these trains, it just didn’t show me.
My curiosity compelled me to do the search again, this time without choosing a step free route. This gave me two choices. The first is a 48 minute underground trip to Holborn which definitely isn’t accessible. But wait, the second option is a 40 minute trip direct from Richmond to Waterloo. My journey can be 30 minutes shorter than recommended, but only because I can apply personal knowledge. Why?
I can only assume it comes down to turn-up-and-go. TfL have a policy that passengers can just turn up and expect to be able to get the necessary assistance to travel. (Now is not the time to get into a discussion about the success or otherwise of this policy). The policy for National Rail services, including South West Trains, is that any assistance should be booked at least 24 hours ahead. The TfL journey planner therefore considers this route inaccessible despite there being ramps and willing staff. The sooner this policy changes the better.
Planning aside the trip itself went very smoothly, in both directions. Maybe one day soon I’ll take a trip and have nothing to write about. Here’s hoping.