Saturday, October 16, 2010

The future arrives

I was travelling north from Harrow on Friday around 4:15pm and imagine my surprise when one of the new S stock trains drew in. This was my first journey on the train that will replace the venerable A stock set, first introduced in 1959. I remember when they began replacing the brown, slam-door, T stock and from 1962 – 1968 I travelled regularly from Preston Road to school in Northwood Hills on the glamorous new "silver" trains.
The first impressions bear out what others have been saying. The trains feel wider and are noticeably smoother. You can walk from one end to the other. And although there is now room under some of the seats for luggage (a big improvement), the familiar overhead racks have gone (shame). And of course there are fewer seats. For most of this week my regular train has arrived almost full (because the earlier one has been cancelled). On the new stock this could mean no seats for people making a journey of 35 minutes to Baker Street and 50 minutes to the City.
The feature that makes me angry is the provision of wheelchair spaces. Nothing wrong with that in itself of course, but only a handful of stations have step-free access. Wheelchair users cannot use the Tube to make almost every common journey the rest of us take for granted. They cannot use Baker Street, the busiest station on the Met. Or Harrow. Or Euston Square. Or Rayners Lane. So either there should be a programme to put in lifts in all the stations, or the designer who removed seats for wheelchairs that will never ever use the trains should be named, shamed and vilified for grossly wasting our money on a stupid propaganda stunt.

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