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A step too far

Cat Smith explains how Boris Johnson is blocking access to London transport

The easiest way to get around London is by tube, but for many Londoners this is not an option. One of the disadvantages of having the world's oldest subterranean railway is that so much of it is not accessible for disabled Londoners. As Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone had promised that a third of all stations on the network would be made step free by the end of 2013. However since

Boris Johnson's arrival at City Hall combined with the economic situation, step free plans have been slashed. Other enhancements have been promised like more accessible train design, wide aisle gates, improved information systems and way-finding - mostly to improve the look of the Underground in the run up to the Olympics in 2012.

I was made aware of these cuts myself when my local station's step free plans were 'deferred'. As a regular user of Finsbury Park station I am regularly offering to help parents with pushchairs carry their children up and down the flights of stairs to the platforms, and on more than one occasion have struggled with heavy luggage myself. I cannot recall ever sharing the platform with a wheelchair user or even a passenger who uses sticks or crutches, it is simply not accessible.

I am not the only local resident upset at the loss of step free plans. The Islington Disability Network have been out campaigning with local disabled and older people, to overturn the decision to defer step free access at Finsbury Park and Highbury & Islington stations. Supported over the past year by local politicians Jeremy Corbyn MP and Jennette Arnold (Greater London Assembly Member), the issue has been raised in Parliament and City Hall - but in December last year we were dealt another blow - only 7 stations from Ken Livingstone's original list of 45 stations are now scheduled for step free access.

Since his election, Boris Johnson has started implementing his manifesto to rid London 's streets of the 'bendy bus' which is the most accessible bus we have on the City's bus routes. A large capacity bus with no stairs made travelling around the city easier for many mobility impaired people - and replacing them with more standard double-deckers in a step backwards for accessible public transport.

Ken Livingstone's candidature as an Independent in 2000 gave him the freedom to champion transport policies which were avoided by the other party aligned candidates. The most striking example is the congestion charge for vehicles entering central London. Once the implementation of the congestion charge started the reliability, coverage and frequency of the buses increased. This combined with the bendy buses and step free access at tube stations meant London's public transport was opening up to Londoners previously excluded. Indeed as progressives we should see the congestion charge as a flag-ship progressive transport policy which charges individual private road users, and uses revenue to invest in public transport solutions for the many.

The Tube can claim to be one part of the City where Londoners from all backgrounds come together; rich and poor, young and old, black and white, but we are forgetting disabled Londoners who cannot access our otherwise fantastic public transport system. If Labour is to champion a truly progressive public transport policy, it should take a look and analyse what is happening in London .