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Accessible London: What is transportation like in London as a wheelchair user?

As some of you know, a few months ago we were back in London. London baby! What a city! But what is the status of accessible London? Is it easy to navigate as a wheelchair user? Continue reading to find out what it is like to travel around London with a wheelchair!

You see me and my partner Marcus on the London Bridge, with the Tower bridge in the background. We're kissing each ohter. I'm wearing a blue coat and a black scarf. Marcus is wearing a red scarf and a black coat.
London as a wheelchair user: how to get around?

What London means to me?

Pff, where to start! It’s the place we called home for almost 3 years. The city I got to meet Marcus. The city I had my first “professional” job ever within the hospitality industry. The city that never sleeps. The city where Marcus & I organised the most original date nights ever. The city where, even though there are so many cultures, traditions still exist.

But London also has a darker side for me. One I do not mention that often, because it’s quite raw and vulnerable to share. It’s the city I had to leave because of the aftermath of the accident. The city that is so big, yet felt so tiny after. The place where my first doctor said “Come back next year, we don’t know what’s wrong and won’t see you until then”.

It took me a few years to admit how lonely I felt after my accident. Being at home, stuck in only a small area (SW people, where ya at?!) because I was unable to travel to other places. Having our friends live 1-1,5 hours away from us. My colleagues all at the office (working from home wasn’t a thing yet) whilst knowing I should actually be there with them. It was a pretty tough time.

I hadn’t been back to London since we left, so returning now meant a great deal. It was amazing to experience London again the way I did when I arrived initially. We got to enjoy time with our friends and my ex-colleagues. We went to the places where we had our first date (and our second, third, etc.). We visited our old house. It was a proper trip down memory lane!

And another thing: I could see now how accessible London truly is, from a more objective point of view rather than one from an emotional point of view.


Accessible London: an honest opinion of a wheelchair user

So let’s take a deep-dive into how to get around London. There are of course different ways of transportation, one more accessible than the other.

Accessible Transportation London

Overall, I think there’s quite a lot of accessible transportation options in London. Let me break it down below in short summaries for you:

Accessible Buses

Accessible Transportation London: there's a woman in a wheelchair entering a bus in London. You see a ramp that's left out, so she can roll on
Photo Credits: Transport For London (TFL)

Buses are a great option to get around in London! Do note that buses are a popular way to travel around and it might get difficult to get into the dedicated space when it’s busy. However, wheelchair users do have priority over the dedicated area, so just ask for the space!

Let me take you through the steps:

  • When the bus arrives, make sure you’re ready around the middle part of the bus, as that’s where you get on. You can press the button to alarm the bus driver you’re there or ask other passengers to warn him/her if they haven’t seen you yet.
  • The buses have a retractable ramp that you can easily roll up on. Buses can accommodate wheelchairs up to 70cm (28 inches) wide by 120cm (47 inches) long (Visit London).
  • As a wheelchair-user you travel for free on buses, which is a great benefit. 
  • When you want to leave, just press the button before you arrive at your stop and the bus driver will stop at the next stop with the retractable ramp.

If you want more info on buses, I highly recommend you to check out this video

CLICK here to download the london accessible bus map

Accessible Taxis

Accessible Black Cabs. Photo credits: Cory Lee

The famous Black Cabs are all accessible! They all have a roll-out ramp that will allow you to just roll into the taxi. The only thing is that when inside, you need to park the chair sideways.

click here for more information

Accessible Trains

We are talking about the wheelchair accessibility in London. You see a wheelchair user getting on a train with a ramp. There's a train conductor next to her to make sure she's safe.
Photo Credits: Portaramp

In general, the trains are accessible. For me, the platforms are usually the issue. Not the platforms itself of course, but the lifts taking you up/down the platforms. If you are in doubt about if lifts work, you can always call the train station in advance to double check.

Let me take you through the process though of how to get on the train:

  • You can either download the app “Passenger Assistance by Transport page” or give National Rail a call to plan your trip and request assistance (phone number: 0800 022 3720. Select option 1). (NOTE: you are able to travel without previously planning, but it saves you a lot of hassle waving down the train driver to help you onboard if you previously plan)
  • If it’s a bigger train station, I’d make sure I’d make myself known with the workers there. Usually you can find an accessible section on the platform where the ramps are stored.
    If it’s a smaller train station, I just wait near the edge so I can wave down the driver to make myself known.
  • The driver then comes out, sets up the ramp and will help you on the train. I usually tell them as well which stop I need to get out. Never hurts to quadruple-check!
  • The barriers to get on/off the platform work the same as on the tube and I have a lovely video for you to check out how that works!
Click here to find out more information about travelling by train as a wheelchair user
ENJOYING THE TRAVEL? CLICK HERE TO FIND THE 9 most accessible beaches in ibiza!

Accessible Tubes

That's me in the wheelchair in front of Farringdon Station, one of the wheelchair accessible tube stations in London
Photo credits to my amazing fiancé Pasky haha :-).

I was WOW-ed by the accessibility of the tubes in London! Although I have to say – I’m talking about the Elizabeth Line here. It’s a new tube line that hasn’t been open for too long yet and is 100% accessible (funny side-note: obviously the moment we tried it for the first time, the lift broke down ha ha). 

Some numbers on the accessibility of tubes:

  • Even though the Elizabeth Line has 100% step free access (if the lifts are working), overall only 22% of the tube stations are accessible. So really plan your trip ahead!
  • There are usually assistance call buttons at each station if you need assistance or if you have a question.
  • If you live in London, you can apply for a freedom pass, meaning you get the tube & buses for free 

So let me take you on the journey:

  • Plan your trip! Only 22% of the stops are accessible, so really plan ahead
  • When you get through the barriers, there’s a wider entrance for wheelchair users. You can pay by Apple Pay, Oyster Card or any card that you can tap.
  • Take the lift to the right platform and wait for the tube
  • VERY important: ONLY get on at the accessibility point. There’s a risk that the station you need to get out has a very wide gap between the train and the platform. This is not there at those accessibility points. You don’t need to press the button for the doors to open
  • On your way out, repeat the entire process!
Click here to download the london accessible tube map

Watch below video to check out how getting on/off the tubes work!

Video showing how to get on accessible tubes in London

What is your experience with the accessibility of London?

Very curious to hear your opinion! Please feel free to leave a comment.

Need the toilet whilst on your way?

Download here a special Tube Toilet Map!

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