How Singapore shames London’s record on disabled mobility
Since taking a world trip for the last three months I have gone out with my wife Margaret in a wheelchair in some 20 countries and encountered many challenges – from uneven and inaccessible pavements to stairs with no accompanying ramps, high kerbs, blocked paths and sudden inaccessible dead ends.
The visit to Singapore was a treat. It outstripped many European cities in the comprehensive services available to disabled people and the ease of getting around the country. This included simple yellow lines for wheelchairs to follow and a pitted surace on the floor for blind people to navigate.
It sends a strong message to Transport for London on how to organise disabled friendly services across the capital. From travelling on the system it was clear a great deal of thought had been put in to make it as easy as possible for disabled people. Signage, positioning of lifts and the design of trains were all co-ordinated. So was access to the street to and from stations. It makes London just amateurish and years behind and pretty hostile to disabled people..
It was a lightening visit – just one day – it involved a visit to major attraction using the underground train system.
While This the cruise terminal was not directly connected to the metro the 250 yard walk from the terminal to the new station was well signposted. It’s served Marina South Pier where more local ferry services run. Getting access was easy . A wide ramp allowed wheelchair access to the station and lifts took you down to the booking hall and platform. The lift came out exactly opposite a specially adapted carriage on the train which included wheelchair spaces.There was completely level access to the train with a minimal gap. We had to change lines at the next station Marina Bay. Again the system was easy to navigate.
Going out at Bayfront station was easy with lifts to the station entrance and a lift also well used by families with pushchairs to street level.
And then there was a bonus. We were going to the Gardens by the Bay one of Singapore’s newer iconic attractions. And round the corner was a shuttle bus to take you to the centre. But it was no ordinary shuttle bus. It included a ramp so wheelchairs could be hoisted on to the back to enable disabled people to travel in style. They were also testing a driverless vehicle.
Once there the two amazing attractions the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest were easily accessible.The Cloud Forest was particularly impressive with a wheelchair accessible lift taking you hundreds of feet above the trees, hanging plants and huge waterfalls so you could walk down on a wide platform.
Singapore’s system is copied by the metro in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. It also has lifts to platforms and ramps into stations. Unfortunately at the two stations we used half the lifts did not work. And the access to the stations is not straightforward. More like London than Singapore.