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The recent opening (or re-opening if you prefer) of the Waterloo International station has posed some interesting questions in terms of accessibility. As some will know the former Eurostar terminal reopened on 10th December on a part time basis. It wont be in full use until the next timetable change In May 2019. Quite a substantial part of the forecourt needs to be finished and this work will include new escalators and lifts. On top of that there will be a new mall, and the public waiting area at Waterloo will be considerably enlarged.

There are already good views of the older part of the station from the new elevated walkway that has just been opened, and from initial impressions it looks like being far superior to what is normally expected at Waterloo station. It should be great when it is finally completed.

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The new concourse with its grand staircase. The accessible lifts to the Waterloo & City will be to the right of the stairs.

There will be a grand flight of stairs leading down from the old concourse to the new and escalators will be available too, both at this point as well as down to the tube ticket hall. One very important aspect of the new station is accessibility for disabled people.

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View showing the new stairs from Platforms 20 to 24. There will be lifts from platform level down to the Waterloo & City.

Every part of the new terminal will be on the level or connected by gentle ramps. Lifts will also be available to take passengers who require these from the new platforms/the existing concourse down to the new lower concourse and then another lift will link from here to the tube station’s ticket hall.

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The existing signs at the station are temporary – the proper ones are underneath the decals and clearly show the lifts for the Waterloo & City Line.

The old Eurostar terminal used to have lifts and the shafts for these are being modified for their new role which includes extending it down to the ticket hall at the tube station. It is precisely by this route, when it is finished, that people will be able to access the Waterloo & City Line easily – but not the Northern or Jubilee Lines which must still be done via the Jubilee Line’s entrance in Waterloo Road. In any event there is no access to the Bakerloo by any of the routes at all.

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The new Walbrook entrance hall.

Last week I wrote about the opening of the new accessible entrance to the Waterloo and City Line at Walbrook. The restriction here however is of course the access from Waterloo (W&C) station whose ramps only allow access to the ticket hall itself. It means anyone in a wheelchair accessing the Waterloo & City can only get as far as the ticket hall at Waterloo station! That will change when the new terminal fully opens next year.

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The new entrance at Bank (Waterloo & City) does not indicate any onward routes for wheelchair users

With the opening of the new facilities at the former international terminal it will mean an all important link in terms of a level route from Waterloo main line station to the City is at last possible.

Its a good alternative to the one already offered by the Jubilee Line – which is rather convoluted because one has to go via Canary Wharf and then back into Central London the DLR to get to Bank! This state of affairs will remain until the Bank station upgrade is completed about 2022. However even with this awaited opening in the pipeline, it will not mean Bank is finally an ideal interchange in terms of disabilities.

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Despite the upgrades the Waterloo & City will basically remain a self contained oasis in terms of accessibility across the tube system.

It means quite a large area of the southern part of the City of London will be accessible for the first time directly from Waterloo, although it still wont enable passengers in wheelchairs for example, to take full onward connections and in this respect even with the upgrades the system as a whole in terms of accessibility is far from ideal.

Cannon Street tube station can take wheelchairs westbound so one could in theory cross from Walbrook to Cannon Street, take the tube to Blackfriars and thence return in the other direction if they want to go to for example Tower Hill.

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The lift at Cannon Street gives access to the westbound platform only!

Onward connections are still possible if one insists on using Bank however it means one will have to go through the streets a short distance to the entrance in King William Street which gives full access to the DLR part of Bank station.

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The only part of the original Bank layout that is officially accessible is this short section from King William lift to/from the DLR lift.

Sadly it means even with the Walbrook upgrade, there is still going to be no access to the Northern Line until the new part of the station comes in to use around 2022.

Even though there will be a new direct access and level route from Cannon Street tube station to the new Bank interchange station, the irony is anyone wanting to get to the Bank interchange from the Waterloo & City will either still have to go through the streets to the new Bank station or cross the streets to get into Cannon Street and thence the new level route to Bank! Its far from ideal.

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The lift to King William Street

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The Bank station lifts arrangement

To avoid having to go through the streets it seems the only other way, unofficial of course, is to get onto the travelator then negotiate the steep gradient at the top of this in order to access the lifts that will take one down to the DLR. I would think however anyone attempting this unofficial route would be best to have assistance with them.

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Is the travelator an official accessibility route?

I do not think staff can prevent disabled people from using this route, but its not exactly being promoted by TfL either and probably for good reason too. The slope from the travelator up to the Bank ticket hall level is very steep and its likely why its not seen as an ideal route, although again there is nothing to prevent its use.

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Even if the travelator can be used the very steep slope to the Bank ticket hall remains a problem…

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Although Bank has nice wide and level passageways these do not seem to be part of any official accessible route due to the problems elsewhere.

With the Bank upgrade complete around 2022 it seems the preferred route for disabled people from the Waterloo & City will be to go along Cannon Street the short distance to the new Bank station entrances which will have full lift access down to the DLR and Northern Lines. Or cross into Cannon Street station itself and use the new subway from there. I suppose it ultimately depends on a person’s preferences because a considerable length of on street route has to be used and it will all depend on whether there are huge flows of commuters limiting the route ahead, the various road crossings and so on.

At no point does it seem any plans will be made for the improvement of the connections between the Waterloo & City and the other lines at Bank.

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Even though there is level access from the Waterloo & City to the new moving walkway which is sited behind these hoardings, there’s going to be no level access of any sort to the Central Line or in the other direction to the DLR/Northern.

The Central Line is also part of the upgrade works but its limited to this new moving walkway and escalators to link up with the DLR/Northern/Waterloo & City.

Its clear even with the major improvements underway at Bank, there will still be a considerable no-go area within interchange in terms of accessibility. One wonders whether the Bank interchange will ever be able to provide full accessibility facilities. What it will do of course is give far better accessibility for disabled people working in the City but not for those wishing to use the station as an interchange.

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