Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Bush tube ceiling falls in as Westfield calls shots

Remember when our central line tube shut for ages in 2008 and then didn't even  open with a lift so disabled people could use it? Back in 2011 I asked Boris Johnson why TfL, which he chairs, had spent £39 million of your money on consultants only to abandon plans for a simple lift. He told me it was too expensive.

Now, just 4 years on, the roof as many of you will have noticed, is falling in requiring repairs costing at least half-a-million pounds. Further evidence, according to critics such as our MP Andy Slaughter, that the real reason for the closure four years ago was simply Westfield’s demand that the station be ready for the opening of their shopping centre and nothing to do with engineering imperatives.

An FOI request by Mr Slaughter found this week that “a commercial settlement with Westfield” means that the works will be done at “no cost to London Underground”. But the nature of the commercial settlement is not revealed.

Andy Slaughter said:
“Thousands of my constituents suffered nearly a year of delays and disruption because London Underground danced to Westfield’s tune four years ago. They were outraged then to be given four week’s notice of an eight month closure, and they will be outraged now that the job they suffered so much for was incompetently done and needs repairing so soon. This makes it clearer than ever that nothing mattered four years ago except getting the job done in time to coincide with the opening of Westfield. 
“We said at the time that a properly planned solution should include lifts, and TfL’s own engineers said that the job could have been done without closing the station. While I have no objection in principle to Westfield contributing to the transport system that brings them much of their trade, a commercial arrangement such as this needs to be open and above board – a public transport system should not be run at the beck and call of a private firm. London Underground have many more questions to answer about this; and I shall be asking them.”
I have one thing to add to this which I remember from my days working for the disability sector - in 2025 the Disability Discrimination Act will apply to transport. Which means they will damn well have to install a lift by that time anyway. Which will incur even more cost. So why not just get on with it?


  1. 2025 is quite a long way off, but it seems unlikely to me that TfL will have the cash to make all old stations accessible any time soon. I would suggest that a fudge of some sort is more likely than compliance.

  2. nope - in every other aspect of the DDA coming into force there have been prosecutions, fines and compliance. So TfL can either carry on pissing in the wind and demonstrating how little it cares for disabled Londoners or it can pull its finger out. I think we can all guess which of those will happen under Boris, so it's a challenge for the next Mayor I suppose.

    1. I fail to see how fining or prosecuting a cash-strapped public body will secure compliance, but who knows.

    2. that sort of mentality was what the race, gender and other equalities lobbies used to come up against. Remarkable what the prospect of being fined does to people's perceptions of what a priority area of work is.

  3. I'd imagine that many of the stations with stairs and little room for a lift (e.g. Goldhawk Road and most suburban stations) will instead get those stairlift-style wheelchair lifts that will need to be operated by a member of staff (who will only be there between certain operating hours). This would be much cheaper and would provide DDA compliance because of the presence of a lift... But this would therefore provide no assistance to those who are simply frail or those who have things like buggies etc who would like to use this method of public transport.