Jan 112019
 

Today we won two cases against London Underground, over their failure to effectively promulgate information about lift closures and alternative step-free routes for disabled people.

Westminster

Video of Westminster lift closure incident

In October 2016, I attempted to get from Westminster to Kings Cross but was thwarted as both the lift at the main entrance and the alternative lift at Canon Row were out of order. Signs still directed people to the entrance on Canon Row, despite this lift having been out of order for a number of days.

Kings Cross

In May 2017, I traveled by Underground to Kings Cross station, to discover that the lift to the surface was out of order. No warning had been given at any other station, and the response station staff gave to my plea for help was inadequate.

Judgment

District Judge Troy gave judgment today, 10th January 2018. The following are extracts from my notes of his judgment. Whilst I am satisfied they are substantially accurate, they are not a verbatim record from the transcript (which I shall order.)

Westminster

In the circumstances, the defendant was in breach of its duty to make reasonable adjustments in respect to deficiencies in signage directing people requiring step-free access to Canon Row lift as opposed to the entrance via Westminster Pier. … In respect of the Westminster case, there has been a breach of the defendant’s obligations. …

The detriment was limited, but was not solely the time wasted going down to Canon Row entrance, but also to bear in mind the frustration caused from the access being blocked, and at that point being left uncertain as to what other options available to him. Although he didn’t have a specific train, this would be a legitimate source of annoyance, no different to an able bodied person sent on a wild goose chase. This would result in frustration, and doubly so for Mr Paulley as a wheelchair user. …

Service users doesn’t have to experience actual loss in order to experience detriment, it is enough that they would prefer to be treated differently.

Kings Cross

In respect of the King’s Cross incident, it is clear that this was notified on the website … Travel on the Tube is a very different scenario compared to mainline or air, where it may be a reasonable expectation for a traveller to check in advance whether services affected, especially if some general experience of difficulties, e.g. travelling on Northern Rail on a Saturday morning, or the recent impact on Gatwick airport caused by a drone. That’s all very well in those circumstances, but any one individual traveller using the Tube may undertake several tube journeys in any one day, of varying length from 1-2 stops or longer. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect any traveller, able-bodied or not, to consult a website. What is needed is something more to alert the traveller at point of access.

The defendant contends that staff resources and communication make the use of whiteboards difficult and the information liable to be out of date, and that this produces bigger problems for travellers, especially to disabled travellers, who may need to commit greater diversions unnecessarily. The defendant contends that Electronic Service Update Boards (ESUBs) are updated regularly, but I already observed that regarding the Kings Cross incident these were not updated until after 16pm, though the original failure was at 0640. I have my doubts as to how promptly these ESUBs are updated. However, if the information on the ESUB is to be accessed, it requires travellers to sit in front of a screen whilst it scrolls through, without any knowledge that relevant information will be displayed. It may take only 9 seconds to scroll through, but it requires the traveller to locate the ESUB. It can be particularly difficult to navigate a station concourse, especially at peak times, for wheelchair users. …

It is not onerous to the defendant to post whiteboards, so as to be of particularly assistance to the disabled community, in the 12 stations with step-free access in Zone 1.

The alternative arrangements the defendant put in hand did not amount to reasonable adjustments to avoid the situation. …

This alternative option (of assistance up the escalator) should have been offered at the outset, avoiding the distress felt by the defendant in waiting on the platform in uncertainty and with the train deadline. … The defendant had adopted an intransigent attitude in initial dealing with the claimant, in making it clear that the only alternative offered was to take the tube to Caledonian Road and a bus back. The claimant specifically questioned alternatives, including the fireman’s lift or face to face assistance, but this was not explored.

My decision may have resource implications for the defendant, but if the defendant is to comply with its obligations to make reasonable adjustments, individual employees should be identified and trained to provide such assistance to wheelchair users, especially at major stations and especially those answering emergency call points. They need task cards and their training updated to offer alternative mechanisms of egress.

Regarding Kings Cross, the detriment was more serious. … I am unimpressed by the handling of the incident by the operative, which increased the claimant’s frustration. Although a solution found, there was a period in which the claimant experienced detriment and worry.

Judicial comment

I therefore make observations (not intended to modify the judgment or understanding of the law) on future expectations regarding the defendant due to resource implications.

On the methodology of notifying incidents affecting travellers, I have come to the view that the use of any one is mechanism is insufficient, and in respect of the facts all three are found to be wanting. ESUBs must be updated immediately on discovery of lift failures. As regards communication via the website, given that passengers may undertake tube journeys on a daily basis, perhaps several times a day, it is impractical for the defendant to rely on the website to comply with its obligations because it is impracticable for users to consult the website before every journey. What is required is a combination of these mechanisms. For wheelchair and pushchair users, the practical solution is to provide some further information at the point of access at the 12 stations with step-free access in Zone 1. To the extent that the defendant is concerned that whiteboards employed to this purpose aren’t easily kept updated, all that needs to happen is to say that there has been an incident notified, please check the website or ESUB before traveling further. If adopted, this procedure would alleviate problems for the traveling public, and would not in any way place an unreasonable burden on defendant’s resources.

The judge also made the point that I am clearly more interested in the point of principle than in damages.

Doug’s comment

It’s an indictment in itself that it took 2+ years in court to reach this point. The circumstances of both incidents speak for themselves. TfL personnel’s sloppy lack of adherence to those procedures and standards designed to minimise disabled people’s inconvenience is shameful and unacceptable; and I am amazed and disturbed that TfL would spend so long, and so much money, fighting to defend such behaviour.

TfL have clear procedures as to what they can and should do to warn disabled people about lift failures. Procedures that they didn’t follow at two key step-free interchanges – King’s Cross (the busiest station on the Underground) and Westminster (right next to the houses of Parliament.) If they don’t follow them there, then what chance have we that they will follow them elsewhere?

TfL refused my multiple offers to settle out of court, stating:

Previous indications were that London Underground Limited (LUL) was very unlikely to offer any money, money having been paid in the past without stopping claims (LUL of course recognises that you are entitled to pursue your legal rights, while it may take a different view as to whether they have in fact been infringed); I have no reason to suppose that this view would have changed. Further, while LUL believes that (putting it broadly) it strives to make things better for disabled users of its services, there is no sensible way LUL can guarantee that, with the best will in the world, it will never slip up in future.

I had concerns about TfL’s adherence to previous agreements:

I am always open to discussion. My issue is that in response to previous such discussions, London Underground made promises / took actions which they didn’t keep up. Take, for example, the Tube accessibility update guidance London Underground composed in 2011, following out of court discussion with me.
So whilst I am prepared to take part in potential out-of-court action, I do need to have some form of assurance that I won’t be re-inventing the wheel.

I am really sad that TfL spent so much time, money and other resources fighting this indefensible discrimination case.

I very much hope that in future they adhere properly to suitable procedures for disseminating information and taking action when lifts break, such that other disabled people don’t go through what I did.

Trapped Underground

 Underground  Comments Off on Trapped Underground
Jun 162017
 

I got Trapped Underground recently.


Incident report

Here’s an extract from the London Underground official report.

Incident Description :- At 1852 a wheelchair customer pressed the help point at the hub, bottom of escalators 16-19.
Lift #6 had been advertised as being out of service from 0629 this morning.
The gentleman complained that escalator 6 was out. CSM answered the call & explained that we have advertised that we are not step free on the TFL website.
The man asked what he should do & was given the suggestion that he take the Piccadilly Line lift to the platform, take a train to Caledonian Road & then take a bus down. He said that he’d miss his last train from KX.
This displeased him & he started saying that it should be on a board at every station & that he has sued LU twice & would do it again. I again repeated that it has been advertised to which he asked if he’s supposed to go online every time he travels?
Mid rant, the help point cut out. I could see him on CCTV still talking. Then he started hitting the emergency button repeatedly, which caused it to stick & the alarm go off continuously in the control room.
CSM , CSS & CSA started to make their way over to the hub, calling CSA to meet them there.
When they arrived, the man started going on about LU not caring about disabled people. “If it was an escalator out, it would be publicised everywhere, but because the lift is only for disabled people, you don’t care”.
I explained that the lifts are not just for disabled people. They are for anyone that wants to use them.
He again repeated that he’s sued LU twice & this will be number 3.
He said that he had a train to catch from KX & it was his last train tonight.
Rather than stand arguing with him, CSM asked CSAs & if they felt comfortable using the escalator to take the man up on his wheelchair. The man was rather large, but both agreed.
The man was taken up escalator 16.
He thanked the 2 CSAs at the top & went on his way, still talking lawsuits.
Findings of immediate investigation (basic cause) :- Lift 6 out of service for door repair.
Customer hadn’t bothered to check the TFL website before he travelled.

Other than the fact that I didn’t say that “it should be on a board at every station” (and of course that I am extremely slim and lithe 🙂 )  the report is largely correct. But it gives a very different flavour from the experience. Compare the cold hard report above from the real stressful experience in the video…


London Underground policy

I submitted a Freedom of Information Request:

Please provide me with your procedures and policy as to what you should do if a station’s lift goes out of order. The lift went out early morning, but there was no sign on the gates as to what to do, no warning at Green Park or Westminster or in the other lifts at Kings Cross and so on. When I pressed for help at the information point, staff had no existing plan as to how I could get to the surface, and had to think on their feet. I want to know what should have happened, at Kings Cross and elsewhere, as a result of step free access suddenly being withdrawn. I also want to know what actions you would take if the escalator or the stairs are broken or obstructed, so that I can compare and contrast your approaches. Please provide me with all of this information.

They supplied the following London Underground policies.
I’ll tick the relevant ones they did, and cross  the relevant ones they didn’t.
The ‘Station Presentation’ section of the Customer Service Supervisors / Managers Handbook states:

When a lift is out of service:

  • display a poster explaining that the lift is out of service
  • tell stations either side
  • display the information on the train operators boards

Use general information boards to tell customers of the out of service lift as they might choose to use alternative routes.

The London Underground Rule Book 11 (Station Management) states:

(In relation to customer information boards)

You must display on customer information boards (where possible) information about any disruptions to:

  • the train service
  • any station facilities.

(In relation to station PA announcements)

You must make sure the following information is given to customers:

  • train service details, including train destinations
  • if the destination of a train is to be changed in any way
  • advice on platform train interface safety
  • details of any facilities that are not available
  • customer flow and crowd control instructions (where appropriate)
  • details of evacuation procedures (when needed).

In terms of what staff should do to ensure that a disabled person can complete their journey in the event of a lift going out of service, there are a range of options, and the appropriate option to use will depend on the particular circumstances.

Rule Book 9 (Lifts, escalators and moving walkways) states:

There are several options for discussion with a wheelchair user when a station is being evacuated or their planned route is no longer viable due to severe service disruption. These can include any combination of the following:

  • boarding another accessible train
  • using other step free access, if available
  • waiting in a place of safety until the service resumes
  • to be assisted up a moving escalator by two members of staff.

Wheelchairs are only permitted to be carried in the up direction on escalators at designated stations, with trained staff.

If an alternative route is to be used, you must confirm:

  • the route is viable for the wheelchair user, and
  • staff will be available along the journey, where needed.

I put a against “to be assisted up a moving escalator” because I wasn’t offered that; I was simply told to catch the tube to Caledonian Road and a bus back and “there’s nothing else we can do.” Only when I mashed the emergency button until it broke did they pull the escalator option out of the hat.

The ‘Managing Customer Service’ part of the Operational Manager Handbook states:

You can book a special taxi, for example, in the following circumstances:

  • operational requirements
  • staff ill health issues
  • for customers (for example, a customer taken ill or last train cancelled)
  • for disabled customers if they are unable to use part of the network that is usually accessible to them

Information

  • If a lift at a step-free station is out of order, it might be appropriate to arrange a special taxi to help a disabled customer make part or all of their journey

Taxis booked on an ad hoc basis are called ‘special taxis’ to differentiate them from scheduled taxis.

In relation to stairs, if the stairs are broken or obstructed such that they can’t be used and there is no alternative route, the station would be closed.

In relation to escalators, comparisons with lifts are difficult because often there is more than one escalator in the same direction in a bank, so it is rare that there will be no escalator access. However, the point about booking a special taxi applies.

The ‘Managing customer service’ part of the Customer Service Supervisors / Managers Handbook states:

Non-availability of step-free access

Information

London Underground has a legal obligation to provide alternative transport to a disabled customer if transport which is usually accessible to that customer becomes inaccessible.

If a customer who needs step-free access cannot use a step-free station and therefore cannot reach their step-free destination for one of the following reasons:

  • a lift is out of service
  • there is a planned closure
  • there is service disruption or a station closure (which means that a disabled customer would have a more difficulty continuing their journey)

or

  • an escalator or lift is out of service resulting in a disabled person, who is normally able to use a station is no longer able to
  • a disabled customer has experienced significant disruption to their journey (for example they were inadvertently sent to an inaccessible station and couldn’t alight)

Make sure they are given help to plan an alternative accessible journey.

Check:

  • whether there is a bus or a rail replacement bus service which will take them to a step-free station en route (where they can continue their journey) or to their destination or, and
  • whether the bus is accessible for the customer
  • the alternative station is accessible to them

Information

A blue wheelchair logo on the Tube map means that a wheelchair user can board or alight. A white wheelchair logo means they are unlikely to be able to board or alight.

If there is a single accessible bus journey to the customer’s destination or a step-free station en route advise them of this. If there is not a single accessible bus journey you should offer an unscheduled taxi to the nearest available step free station en route or to their final destination if it is more practical.

Information

Disabled customers are likely to experience a much longer delay to their journey than non-disabled customers when using alternative routes, if this is the case consider using an unscheduled taxi.


Oh look

I never got to use the tick ☑ 🙂

But of course, this whole thing was caused by the Hand of Fate and by my irresponsibility; as noted basic causes were “Lift 6 out of service for door repair. Customer hadn’t bothered to check the TFL website before he travelled.

I’m very sorry for the inconvenience I caused London Underground by my selfishness.

%d bloggers like this: