We have been asking passengers and staff members over the last few months to ask for Accessibility Maps at ticket offices on the Southern network. These maps inform passengers who need assistance whether stations are staffed and if there is step-free access amongst other things, pretty essential if you are travelling in a wheelchair. We discovered that there were no current paper Accessibility Maps to be found and we challenged the company to justify why this was the case. It was obvious to us that this was because GTR were holding off publishing a new map because they were waiting until they had forced through Driver Only Operation over the entire network and did not want to alert staff or disabled passengers that this was their intention. They wanted to save money and increase profits by not printing a map they would soon have to change again. That is the contempt they hold for passengers with special needs. Needless to say GTR refused to grace us with a reply.
In response we decided to update the Accessibility Map ourselves and published this article a month or so ago. At the time we were just speculating what the effect of removing the 2nd safety critical person from the train would have on the ability of disabled and vulnerable passengers to ‘turn up and go’. We had to guess from our route knowledge which stations would be negatively affected and adapted the map accordingly. It took quite a lot of work to make the new map but what a waste of time it turned out to be! No sooner had we published it when GTR/Southern began to rollout their new network map on 377 rolling stock. It’s not an updated Accessibility Map but they had obviously(!) used our new map as a template as they have tried to negate our negative representation of the ‘red triangle’ with a sleight of hand trick to show how many stations are wheelchair friendly by using a ‘green tick’. Very positive! A brief glance at the map shows a green tick almost everywhere (in fact some stations have a tick which they don’t warrant). However it is in the legend where the reality of the situation is revealed. It states,
“Step-free access between train and platform requires a staff-operated ramp. If you require a ramp or need help getting on or off trains, please book this in advance and we’ll make sure staff are available to help, otherwise there may be a significant delay to your journey.”
So in other words, there won’t be a second staff member on board the train as promised by GTR! It was a complete waste of time updating the map because now if you want to travel and need assistance you must ALWAYS book in advance from ANY station! The strange thing is GTR have not provided a minimum time to book! So does it mean that you can ring ten minutes before or does it need to be 24hrs? Your guess is as good as ours! Also the map is placed around 6ft high. How is someone in a wheelchair supposed to see it? Here it is so you can see the pre-booking advice for yourselves:
And here is the full map. Lots of green ticks everywhere but unfortunately you cannot board the train unless you have booked in advance. You can get on to the station but YOU CAN’T GET ON THE TRAIN! (We have not checked all the ticks but we have noticed one glaring mistake – a green tick for Glynde where there is only 1 platform step-free, back to the drawing board GTR):
So back to the Accessibility Map.
This is the current Southern Station Accessibility Map:
Below is an edited Southern Station Accessibility Map to account for expanded Driver Only Operation area following axing of second safety critical staff member from trains. We have emphasised the East and West Coastway, Seaford and Oxted routes (we have corrected the non-electrified route to Uckfield which we believe will retain 171 rolling stock and therefore Guards, for now – thanks to whoever tweeted us this info). We are not sure of staffing at stations north of Redhill but we will edit further once we know more. Please help us with any extra information to increase accuracy.
At the moment, as can be seen in the map above, any passenger requiring assistance can ‘turn up and go’ at any accessible station on these lines due to a guard being present on the train (normally marked by a green or yellow circle with black outline). In the map below we have added the orange triangle with red surround to demonstrate how this will change: 24 hours notice would now be needed to ensure there is no significant delay to passenger journey and that there is someone there to provide assistance. Please see the key on the map for further information.