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The upgrade at Ealing Broadway is largely completed although not by a great deal. It has however enabled the new part of the station to be opened. There’s work yet to do including the station frontage and signage and tidying up of the platform areas. In terms of the main entrance and ticket hall it looks nice and airy compared to the old one which seems to have been an afterthought bolted onto the rear of a sixties shopping area. Its not a ground breaking style of new build as many Crossrail stations are of a similar style. The new exterior canopy does at least have a celling made of wood and looks nice – which is at least different from the somewhat bland earlier proposals mooted for the site.

There were a number of earlier proposals including pedestrianisation of the road outside the station itself. It seems the current design was conceived in 2019, superseding a number of other designs which also involved part pedestrianisation of the area outside the station entrance. Its very difficult to find any plans that show how the finalised station will look – however this from Ealing Council’s consultation documents does show it as it is expected to be completed. I extracted the image from Ealing’s documents using Candy PDF.

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How the new station will eventually look. Source: London Borough Ealing

When its said the new station is now open, parts of it have indeed been in use for a considerable length of time. The new footbridge stairs, the steps from the footbridge down to the old station ticket hall, these have been in use more than a year now, and possibly two years for the footbridge stairs from platform three. There’s been delays too and evidently its been a slow process trying to shoehorn the new station into the old oversite development which was built across the main lines and opened in 1965. Besides that, the station frontage too needs to be completed and the street furniture established. The exterior will form a row of retail units replacing those that were part of the older development.

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Notice at Ealing Broadway extolling the new station’s advantages.

The one shortcoming of the new site is there’s no direct route to the busier platforms anymore. In the old arrangement at least one could see the Central Line platforms straight ahead via the steps, whereas in the new development if one is not familiar with the site one will have to consult the directional boards and line diagrams for the correct part of the station. Its nice there’s a grandstand view of the station platforms from the main hall area and one cant really grumble that they’re somehow being inconvenienced by the new arrangements. At least the new ticket area hall and all platform areas are level from the street entrance, whereas the old sixties entrance with its flight of stairs was a considerable inconvenience – apart from the one advantage it had which was direct access into the rearward part of the adjacent Holland and Barrett store!

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The old entrance and the new entrance (just visible at right.)

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The main entrance. Completely level access from the street through the barriers to the lifts. Ticket office is to the left.

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New ticket machines in use.

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Signage (which is temporary) indicating the main local platforms 3 and 4. Behind the guy is the access to platform 1. There’s a lift to this too, but it wont be used much except when trains need to be diverted to the fast lines.

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The pair of lifts to Platform 4 and the Central/District Line stations. A pigeon’s already found this location a useful spot to roost!

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The lower level of the lifts at Platform 4. The huge gap between the platform and the Elizabeth line train is very apparent.

I took the photographs of the new station’s environment on two different days, which explains why I have photos of the Platform 4 lift working as well as out of order!

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Platform 4’s right hand lift clearly knackered after just three days use! At least there’s an alternative!

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The controls and handrails in the lifts to Platform 3 and 4/Central Line are of the same standardised design found in all TfL’s accessible format lifts. The exterior button consoles are different however.

Another shortcoming in terms of the new station is the fact two lifts are available for the London bound main line platform as well as three of the tube platforms. but only one for the other platforms. I have wanted to write about this for sometime however I will mention it in passing now… this is the access to those platforms with two lifts in my view constitute full disability access, whilst that to the other platforms, being just one lift, doesn’t constitute fully disability access. There are many reasons for that, the main one being there isn’t a backup if the one lift is out of order. That’s because unlike having a flight of fixed stairs (or an escalator that has stopped) for those who can walk, there isn’t any alternative for those who need to use a wheelchair.

What it means effectively is one lift is a partial access facility. If the lift packs up it isn’t any sort of accessibility at all.

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The lift serving Platform 3 (Heathrow/Reading local trains.) Platform 2 is the up fast line but wont be used much except when trains are diverted to that track.

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The lower lift landing for Platform 2/3. This lift interestingly has seat rests which is a new innovation being introduced at these stations. There’s a good amount of work yet to be done before this part of the platform is complete. The signage is currently somewhat basic as there’s none that indicate the lift from Platform 3. The problem here is the lift is hidden behind the stairs leading up from the platform itself.

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See! No indication there’s an accessible lift at the end of the platform (nor is it visible to people alighting from the train.)

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Incomplete new waiting area on Platform 3, with what is undoubtedly an excess fares kiosk. No doubt this building will replace that older one nearer to the steps.

That question of accessibility onto the trains once again….

In spite of the good this latest upgrade has brought, its not all roses. The platforms themselves are fine to most users, but for the disabled and those with heavy luggage etc, getting on or off the trains themselves is dire. The trains are a considerable height above the platforms and I’m really surprised no attempt was undertaken to alter these platforms, because now that much of the new station has been built (including lifts at that particular platform level) it would mean a considerable work to rectify this. Yet its being said Ealing Broadway station now has step free access…

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Network Rail’s news report on the opening of the new station. Source: Network Rail

Well that’s fair enough what they’re saying but it doesn’t reflect the fact its only partial. They do say in the Notes for Editors: ‘Due to the different types of trains running through the TfL Rail stations, including freight trains, level boarding could not be provided for the Elizabeth line trains outside of the newly built central section stations. Staff will always be on hand to deploy manual boarding ramps between the platform and train.’

Fair enough again, but they also say in the Notes for Editors: ‘All 41 stations on the Elizabeth line will be step-free when it is fully open.’ I would think that is misleading. If Ealing Broadway is one of those 41 stations (as are others too) how can it even be step free?

Let’s have a look at this matter of being ‘step free’ once again…. As others would too assert, step free means no steps of any sort. Step free means absolutely level. I took these pictures of the train/platform interface at the same time I did the other pictures of the new station. I’ve done all this before but thought it was time I did a new set…

Let’s face it, the idea of things being step free is somewhat confusing. If a ramp is needed to access a train well that isn’t step free is it? A ramp is a means of negotiating a step but a ramp is still an obstacle too in a number of ways and can cause further difficulties – and because of that they’re not popular.

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Platform 3 with a Class 345 (Crossrail/Elizabeth Line.) Would you call that step free?

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Paddington bound train on Platform 4. Could this even be described as step free? It looks worse than the other platform!

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Never mind the fact its not exactly step free. What’s worrying too is this huge gap between the train’s step and the platform.

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Even the tube at Ealing Broadway isn’t step free. This is the Central Line which is part of TfL. On the day I took these pictures the District was suspended for engineering works so couldn’t do that for comparison.

I know the tube has its own problems but surprisingly they managed quite recently to sort out the awful westbound platform at Ladbroke Grove and make it practically level from train to platform! Its been said the eastbound platform will be tackled later this year. As for lifts at that station (and the many others that were in the pipeline too before COVID appeared) well I imagine it would all depend on TfL’s current financial situation…

Even though a number of guidance policies have been published in regards to platform standardisation its clear any sort of proper standard is not even remotely close and means the only other option is to lower the tracks but I’m not sure if that can be done as there are other complexities involved. It seems we are just falling behind in every aspiration to achieve a good standard of accessibility across the rail network. Network Rail, TfL, and GWR have all said disabled passengers can use Ealing Broadway station (and the other Elizabeth Line stations en route to Reading too) with the assistance of ramps. That’s fair enough knowing there will be someone on hand to help, but I know many would see this approach as not ideal.

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