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How accessible are the UK’s train stations?

19th January 2022

 

Public transport is something we rely on hugely in the UK, it offers us a way to get from place to place easily and efficiently. According to a study by the Department for Transport, “10% of workers across Great Britain used a train, underground or tram to get to work in 2019.”

With trains a crucial part of daily life for many of us, it’s time to find out which stations in the UK are the most accessible.

If you use a stair lift at home or you use a wheelchair or mobility aid, using public transport can sometimes be difficult, especially if the facility isn’t adapted to your needs. This article aims to answer the accessibility questions that are asked about the UK’s most-used train stations and find out whether UK train stations are actually serving everyone in the UK.

In this article, we compare 100 of the busiest train stations in the UK, looking at whether they have nine rudimentary accessibility features, offering an objective look at how accessible UK train stations really are.

This information will help future users to understand which stations best suit their travel needs and which locations should be avoided.

Click on a section to find out more information:

• REVEALED: The most accessible train stations in London and the rest of the UK

• Methodology

• Most accessible train stations in London

• Most accessible train stations excluding London

• The least accessible train stations in London

• The least accessible train stations excluding London

• How do other countries compare?

• How can stations improve their accessibility further?

REVEALED: The most and least accessible train stations in London and the rest of the UK

 

How accessible are the train stations in the UK

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Methodology

 

To find out how accessible train stations are in the UK, we analysed the data supplied by the Office of Rail and Road listing estimates of station usage through 2018 and 2019 to get an accurate representation of usage when transport was at normal capacity before the coronavirus pandemic. The data was then split into two sets: London, and the rest of the UK excluding London. This allowed the top 50 locations for each group to be analysed fairly based on nine key accessibility factors:

• Induction Loop Availability

• Step-Free Access

• National Key Toilets

• Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter

• Wheelchairs Available

• Train Ramp Access

• Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines

• Impaired Access Staff

• Accessible Telephone

Using information from Grand Central Rail by Arriva*, we were able to see which of the nine accessibility factors each station had. 10 points were given for each accessibility feature the station had and 0 points to stations that did not offer the feature. The locations were then rated based on their overall scores and given one of the following labels:

• 90 – Outstanding

• 70-80 – Excellent

• 50-60 – Good

• 0-40 – Needs improvement

*All information is correct as of the Grand Central Rail by Arriva website.

All the data can be found here.

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Most accessible train stations in London

 

The most accessible London train stations:

• City Thameslink

• London Liverpool Street

• London Charing Cross

• Clapham Junction

• London Cannon Street

• London Fenchurch Street

• Wimbledon

• Richmond (London)

• Lewisham

• Surbiton

• Putney

• Bromley South

These findings came as quite a surprise, with only one out of the top 50 London train stations having all accessibility factors. City Thameslink is the only station in the London area that is fully accommodating to those with a variety of accessibility needs. London Liverpool Street, London Charing Cross, Clapham Junction and London Cannon Street all only missed one feature, along with seven other London locations. Below, we also reached out for first-hand accounts from disability bloggers to hear how the accessibility factors actually work for real people.

Outstanding: City Thameslink

 

Coming out on top as the most accessible London train station, City Thameslink had all of the accessibility factors checked, including induction loop availability which many other London locations fell short on.

One of the factors that City Thameslink ranked well for was impaired access staff, this is something that visually impaired blogger Tony from Tony The Traveller thinks is really important and is something he thinks many stations are already getting right: “Many station staff appear trained or, at least, have some understanding of how to assist blind-visually impaired passengers in my opinion and from my experiences. Most staff seem friendly and talkative. As I use trains and stations frequently, staff get to know me and that makes the whole experience a little easier.”

Opened in 1990 and previously known as St. Pauls Thameslink, the station connects Blackfriars to the south and Farringdon to the north. With two entrances, all featuring step-free access, one on Ludgate Hill and one on Holborn Viaduct, getting into the station itself doesn’t bring any challenges.

Accessibility at City Thameslink

• Induction Loop Availability: Yes

• Step-Free Access: Yes

• National Key Toilets: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter: Yes

• Wheelchairs Available: Yes

• Train Ramp Access: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines: Yes

• Impaired Access Staff: Yes

• Accessible Telephone: Yes

Excellent: London Liverpool Street

 

A popular and connecting station in the heart of the city, many will be pleased to see London Liverpool Street perform well. For many wheelchair users or those who use a mobility aid, entering a station that has no steps or offers ramp alternatives is a positive attribute.

Pippa, who blogs about her life and chronic illness at Life of Pippa, thinks more stations should look at making the transition between carriage and platform easier: “In the future, I'd love to see more step-free boarding options so that disabled passengers can exhibit more autonomy and not have to rely on using their valuable time and energy booking assistance. I'd also love to see a greater awareness of chronic and invisible conditions among staff working in the industry; not only aware that these things exist but some of the unique challenges that passengers with these conditions may face when travelling by train.”

As one of the first stations in London, Liverpool Street Station has adapted as the years have gone by and has gradually introduced more accessibility features as changes have been made. This is something that we can hope will continue with the introduction of an induction loop and other features.

Shona, a UK disability and theatre blogger at Shona Louise often uses the train and says that a number of her regular stations in London have improved their level access: “The biggest challenge when it comes to travelling on trains as a wheelchair user for myself is assistance not arriving to take me off the train. It's daunting and frustrating when there isn't a ramp waiting and this has been particularly stressful when it happens late at night when it's dark and there aren't as many other passengers about. On the route I use to regularly travel into London over the past few years they have levelled out the platforms at the stations in central London, which means I can get off the train without assistance or a ramp, which has made a big difference to my journeys. It's something I'd love to see happen across the whole of the UK.”

Accessibility at London Liverpool Street

• Induction Loop Availability: No

• Step-Free Access: Yes

• National Key Toilets: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter: Yes

• Wheelchairs Available: Yes

•Train Ramp Access: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines: Yes

• Impaired Access Staff: Yes

• Accessible Telephone: Yes

Excellent: London Charing Cross

 

London Charing Cross has sat on the same site since 1864 and has seen huge changes over the years. Although Charing Cross station doesn’t have the inclusion of an induction loop, accessible staff are available, as well as impaired ticket and booking office counters, meaning that those with hearing and vision impairments can access their tickets or the information they need easily, something Chloe, owner of Chloe Tear and an award-winning disability blogger and freelance writer, thinks is crucial in all stations: “Train stations now have audio announcements as well as visual. I believe this does extend their accessibility. Not only that, but the ability to have train timetables accessible on phones has also really opened it up to disabled people. When assistance goes well, it’s amazing and allows me to travel like every other 21-year-old.”

Accessibility at London Charing Cross

• Induction Loop Availability: No

• Step-Free Access: Yes

• National Key Toilets: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter: Yes

• Wheelchairs Available: Yes

• Train Ramp Access: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines: Yes

• Impaired Access Staff: Yes

• Accessible Telephone: Yes

Excellent: Clapham Junction

 

Clapham Junction is a bustling station set away from Central London to the west. Often praised for its step-free access and train ramp access, the station originally opened in 1863 and has made considerable changes to its accessibility since that time.

“I rarely travel on trains or tubes as my disability means I need the company of someone I know to do so,” says Sarah who blogs at Same Difference. Sarah highlights the need for wheelchairs to be made more visible in stations, and although many stations do have wheelchairs on offer, they often aren’t displayed as obviously as some would like.

“However, when I do use the tube, the most difficult thing about it is the long walks within some stations. I wish distances could be made shorter or manual wheelchairs provided at entrances to stations for people who may not know the distances and may benefit from borrowing a wheelchair. And if wheelchairs are available to borrow, they should be parked where they can be seen easily.”

Sarah also comments on how she has noticed that many of London’s stations are offering step-free access, but she thinks this needs to happen faster and sooner: “I know that London is already working to make more stations step-free and that's very good. This needs to happen as fast as possible and all stations should be step-free as soon as possible.”

Accessibility at Clapham Junction

  • Induction Loop Availability: No
  • Step-Free Access: Yes
  • National Key Toilets: Yes
  • Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter: Yes
  • Wheelchairs Available: Yes
  • Train Ramp Access: Yes
  • Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines: Yes
  • Impaired Access Staff: Yes
  • Accessible Telephone: Yes

Excellent: London Cannon Street

 

Situated on edge of the Thames, London Cannon Street is another accessible station that connects Zone 1 to South-eastern areas such as Kent and southeast London. The station has step-free access and several accessibility help points including accessible ticket machines and accessible booking office counters.

Although many stations, including London Cannon Street, have accessibility staff on hand to help anyone should they need it, disability blogger Chloe says that these staff or accessibility features can’t always be relied on: “When travelling on trains within the UK it is extremely difficult to have faith in assistance. I rely on travel assistance to navigate through stations and to find my seat due to my reduced vision. However, there have been so many times when I have booked assistance and it has failed to turn up.”

Accessibility at Cannon Street

• Induction Loop Availability: No

• Step-Free Access: Yes

• National Key Toilets: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter: Yes

• Wheelchairs Available: Yes

• Train Ramp Access: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines: Yes

• Impaired Access Staff: Yes

• Accessible Telephone: Yes

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Most accessible train stations excluding London

 

The most accessible train stations outside of London:

• Leicester Railway Station

• Birmingham New Street

• Leeds Station

• Manchester Piccadilly

• Brighton Railway Station

• Glasgow Queen Street

• Reading

• Liverpool Lime Street

• Cardiff Central

• Cambridge

• York

• Sheffield

• Newcastle

• Watford Junction

• Oxford

• Nottingham

• Woking

• Guildford

• Milton Keynes Central

• Southampton Central

• Bath Spa

• Basingstoke

• Manchester Airport

• Winchester

• Chester

• Peterborough

• Huddersfield

• Stevenage

• Maidenhead

• Dartford

• Colchester

• Stockport

• Sevenoaks

• Tonbridge

• Chelmsford

Out of the 50 busiest train stations in the UK excluding London, Leicester Railway Station was the only one that has all nine accessibility factors (at the time of writing). Although just one station offers all the accessibility factors, the likes of Birmingham New Street, Leeds Station, Manchester Piccadilly and Brighton Railway Station all offer 8/9 of the factors along with 30 other stations across the UK that are outside of London – an encouraging sign.

Outstanding: Leicester Railway Station

 

Despite the Victorian station opening way back in 1840, the Leicester Railway Station is the only non-London station we checked that has all accessibility factors.

Kathy Lawrence, the editor at When They Get Older, feels that while Leicester Railway Station is an exception, there are a lot of stations in the UK that make it difficult to travel on trains in the UK as they were built before accessibility was thought about.

“Railway networks have major challenges in improving stations that were built before accessibility was a consideration. We are seeing ramps installed where possible, but many stations are constructed way above ground level, and there’s no option but long flights of steps. The only alternative is to travel to a station with better access.

“That makes structural change tricky, but what I would like to see is better care of the facilities that are already available. One wheelchair commuter here is constantly finding he can’t use the station because the lift isn’t working again. Sometimes he doesn’t even know it’s broken until he gets off the train.”

Accessibility at Leicester Railway Station

• Induction Loop Availability: Yes

• Step-Free Access: Yes

• National Key Toilets: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter: Yes

• Wheelchairs Available: Yes

• Train Ramp Access: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines: Yes

• Impaired Access Staff: Yes

• Accessible Telephone: Yes

Excellent: Birmingham New Street

 

The largest of the city’s three main stations and benefitting from a £550 million redevelopment, Birmingham New Street boasts modern and accessible facilities that have been proven with the station finishing joint runner-up as one of the most accessible UK train stations outside of London. Some of the accessibility features that the station has available include step-free access, train ramp access and wheelchairs available to passengers.

The Birmingham New Street station would rate highly for John Morris, the founder of WheelchairTravel.org, who tells us about his perfect station for people with mobility problems.

“The ideal station is one that permits level-entry and barrier-free boarding of wheelchairs. Where this is not feasible, ramps should be readily available on the station platform and railway personnel should be personally empowered to deploy the ramp.”

Birmingham New Street acts as the main hub for Cross Country, allowing passengers to change trains to all parts of the country. From the station you can travel to Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland, Wales, Bristol Temple Meads and Penzance in the South West and London via Coventry.

Accessibility at Birmingham New Street

• Induction Loop Availability: Yes

• Step-Free Access: Yes

• National Key Toilets: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter: Yes

• Wheelchairs Available: Yes

• Train Ramp Access: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines: No

• Impaired Access Staff: Yes

• Accessible Telephone: Yes

Excellent: Leeds Station

 

Leeds Station is the third busiest station outside of London with around 30 million passengers a year using the station, and with its 17 platforms, it is also the largest in terms of platforms outside of the capital.

Something that the Leeds Station offers to its passengers that isn’t prevalent across all stations in the UK are impaired access staff that can help passengers with mobility problems or another disability. This is something that Yorkshire-based Holly, who runs the blog Life of a Blind Girl, says she finds very difficult.

“The lack of passenger assistance, even when I have booked it well in advance is difficult. When travelling on trains, I never know whether the assistance will turn up or not and this can be rather stressful, especially when I have to get a connecting train, or when I’m left on a platform at an unfamiliar station.”

Despite this, Holly does think stations have improved their accessibility: “Many stations have improved accessibility such as tactile paving, lift access and good services around the station. Talking announcements make a huge difference for me as a blind person.”

Accessibility at Leeds Station

• Induction Loop Availability: No

• Step-Free Access: Yes

• National Key Toilets: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter: Yes

• Wheelchairs Available: Yes

• Train Ramp Access: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines: Yes

• Impaired Access Staff: Yes

• Accessible Telephone: Yes

Excellent: Manchester Piccadilly

 

When the railway came to the city in 1830, Manchester Piccadilly was considered to be the beating heart of the industrial revolution as it had the potential to link to other industrial towns and cities and this continues today.

More than 30 million passengers pass through the station every year and the research discovered that it is one of the UK’s most accessible stations with it passing 8/9 of the accessibility factors.

While Manchester Piccadilly is one site that ticks a lot of the accessibility boxes, Kerry Thompson, a multi-award winning blogger who is behind the My Life, Kerry’s Way site, believes there is still a long way to go for every station in the UK to become accessible.

She says: “The lack of spaces for any mobility aids, physically being able to get on and off the train, there never seems to be set out plans to follow when dealing with anyone with a disability.

“More Accessible toilets e.g. changing places toilets in every train station, lifts need to be improved, signage isn’t always visible or clear, better plans for dealing with people with disabilities. Training & communication needs to be better than it is.

“Factor wise train stations still need to do a huge amount of improvement to be highly accessible for anyone with disabilities whether it’s visually, physical or wheelchair.”

Accessibility at Manchester Piccadilly

• Induction Loop Availability: No

• Step-Free Access: Yes

• National Key Toilets: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter: Yes

• Wheelchairs Available: Yes

• Train Ramp Access: Yes

• Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines: Yes

• Impaired Access Staff: Yes

• Accessible Telephone: Yes

Excellent: Brighton Railway Station

 

Managed by Southern, this railway station also operates trains by Thameslink, Gatwick Express and Great Western Railway as it links to other major towns and cities in the south of England.

Brighton Railway Station is still one of the busiest stations in the UK outside London with around 16 million people using the station every year.

It is ranked as one of the most accessible stations after it passed eight out of the nine accessibility factors the research looked at as it offers step-free access, accessible toilets, train ramps and accessible telephones for its passengers.

Accessibility at Brighton Railway Station

  • Induction Loop Availability: No
  • Step-Free Access: Yes
  • National Key Toilets: Yes
  • Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter: Yes
  • Wheelchairs Available: Yes
  • Train Ramp Access: Yes
  • Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines: Yes
  • Impaired Access Staff: Yes
  • Accessible Telephone: Yes

Train stations that were rated ‘Good’

There is a plethora of stations that are rated ‘good’ which means they scored either 50 or 60 points with their accessibility factors. Some of these stations are large and widely used stations that could look to upgrade some of their offerings in the future to upgrade their score in upcoming years.

Train stations in London that rated ‘good’

  • Vauxhall
  • Finsbury Park
  • London Marylebone
  • London Bridge
  • Romford
  • Earlsfield
  • New Cross Gate
  • London St Pancras International
  • Ilford
  • Ealing Broadway
  • Shoreditch High Street
  • Shepherd's Bush

Train stations excluding London that rated ‘good’

  • Birmingham International
  • Preston (Lancs)
  • Edinburgh
  • Liverpool Central

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The train stations that need improvement in London

 
  • Farringdon
  • Peckham Rye
  • Seven Sisters
  • Old Street
  • Dalston Kingsland
  • Highbury & Islington
  • West Ham
  • Canada Water
  • Whitechapel
  • Moorgate

Although many of London’s stations ranked relatively well, there were a few stations that really surprised and could be improved. Moorgate and Whitechapel scored the lowest against the accessibility factors, offering no to very little help for those in a wheelchair or with accessibility needs.

Needs improvement: Moorgate

Scoring 0/9, Moorgate has no accessibility features, a score that is the worst out of the busiest London train stations. Only part of the London station, which welcomed over 11 million people over the course of 2018/19, is step-free, meaning wheelchairs cannot access the whole of the station.

Accessibility at Moorgate

  • Induction Loop Availability: No
  • Step-Free Access: No
  • National Key Toilets: No
  • Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter: No
  • Wheelchairs Available: No
  • Train Ramp Access: No
  • Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines: No
  • Impaired Access Staff: No
  • Accessible Telephone: No

Needs improvement: Whitechapel

Whitechapel also scored low, only marking yes on 1/9 of the factors, again a very poor score for a station of its calibre. Whitechapel welcomed over 14 million people over the course of 2018/19, a figure that cannot be ignored when it comes to accessibility.

Accessibility at Whitechapel

  • Induction Loop Availability: No
  • Step-Free Access: No
  • National Key Toilets: No
  • Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter: No
  • Wheelchairs Available: No
  • Train Ramp Access: No
  • Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines: No
  • Impaired Access Staff: Yes
  • Accessible Telephone: No

The train stations excluding London that need improvement

 
  • Manchester Oxford Road

Despite most of the busiest train stations in the UK outside of London offering many of the accessibility factors to their passengers, there was one station that could do with some improvement.

Needs improvement: Manchester Oxford Road

Located a few miles west of Manchester Piccadilly, the Manchester Oxford Road station is known for its Grade II listed façade. The station saw more than 9 million passengers use the station in 2018/19 and despite it being one of the UK’s busiest stations it only offers 4/9 of the accessibility factors. Only part of the station is step-free, there are no accessible toilets, induction loop, wheelchairs to use or an impaired accessible booking office available.

Accessibility at Manchester Oxford Road

  • Induction Loop Availability: No
  • Step-Free Access: No
  • National Key Toilets: No
  • Impaired Accessible Booking Office Counter: No
  • Wheelchairs Available: No
  • Train Ramp Access: Yes
  • Impaired Accessible Ticket Machines: Yes
  • Impaired Access Staff: Yes
  • Accessible Telephone: Yes

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How do other countries compare?

 

 

According to a report that was published in 2013 by the European Commission, it found that slightly more than one in 10 Europeans (11%) face accessibility issues when using any form of transport. Respondents who face accessibility issues expanded on this with one in 20 having issues with accessing transport due to a disability, 3% of Europeans having issues due to the natural ageing process, 2% because they travel with young children in prams and 1% face accessibility issues due to a temporary impairment.

How does the UK compare to other countries in Europe? The study reveals that you are most likely to have accessibility issues due to a disability in Hungary (9%) and the United Kingdom (9%) and are least likely to have an accessibility issue for this reason in Cyprus (2%), Malta (2%), Denmark (2%) and Finland (2%).

The study also found that you are most likely to have transport accessibility issues due to the natural ageing process in Latvia, with 10% of respondents in the country having these problems. However, only one per cent of respondents in Denmark and France have transport accessibility issues for this reason.

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How can stations improve their accessibility further?

 

 

Railways in the UK can still improve their accessibility and below are some ways in which disability bloggers believe they can update stations.

Tactile tracking

For those with visual impairments, it can be increasingly difficult to navigate around a busy, people-filled station. Tactile paving helps passengers to self-orientate and find their platform and is often used to warn visually impaired pedestrians that they are approaching the platform edge.

This is something Chloe, a disability blogger, thinks should be introduced, to some, if not all stations: “I would make train stations more accessible by having tactile tracking throughout. This would enable blind and partially sighted people to navigate independently. There also needs to be something implemented that allows disabled people to be in contact with assistance throughout their journey. Knowing that there will be someone waiting would give us so much reassurance.”

Tony, who runs a blog about travelling as a visually-impaired person, agrees that this would be helpful, “Ensure all station platforms have tactile dots/bumps on the edge, so blind-visually impaired people know the location of the platform edge. Maybe have a tactile line down the middle of each platform on every station, big and small, to guide blind-partially sighted people to the exit of stations and also to stairs lifts. This would also assist in avoiding going close to the platform edge.”

Electronic ramps

Another addition that would be highly appreciated is electronic ramps so the need for assistance isn’t required, as Gemma from the Wheelscapades blog explains: “It would be great if somehow trains could be accessed without the need for assistance from a staff member. If I could just roll up, press some kind of button and a little ramp appears ready for me to board. The same with departing. Not having to rely on other people and the correct organisation would make for less stressful and more spontaneous travel.”

Tony agrees that electronic ramps would make a great difference for those with impairments or using a mobility aid: “I'm sure there can always be improvements to both stations and trains.

“I can only speak from a blind person’s perspective whilst using a long cane. It will be a different experience for people with different disabilities. Maybe one-day trains can be made so there are no steps on and off trains like some underground trains. Or if not, then ramps could appear automatically upon a train door opening, making it easier for everyone, disabled or not to exit/enter trains.”

Step-free access and announcements

Steps at train stations can be a major issue to passengers with mobility problems and this is something that Tony believes can be improved.

He said: “All station entrances should have no steps, but this would be extremely costly to do! One last thought, maybe some kind of info box on the wall near the entrance to the platforms informing people what platform they were on and the time and info of the next train to arrive.”

Changing places and accessible toilets

The data found that not all train stations in the UK offer passengers changing places or accessible toilets and this is something John Morris from WheelchairTravel.org thinks can be improved.

He adds: “Some stations have installed Changing Places accessible toilet facilities, a trend which I hope will continue across the country and the world.”

Analysing the most accessible UK train stations

After looking at all the data, it is evident that there are a lot of accessible train stations across the whole of the UK, but that there is still a long way to go to make public transport accessible for all.

The likes of Leicester Railway Station and City Thameslink are the most accessible train stations in the UK as they offered all nine of the accessibility factors the research looked at. On the opposite end of the scale, the likes of Manchester Oxford Road, Moorgate and Whitechapel were stations that offered very few of the factors the study looked at, such as step-free access and wheelchairs. Stations with no step-free access, for example, will either need to implement new curved stairlifts or new step-free entrances to the train station to help passengers with a mobility issue that are using the station.

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