Navigating the UK’s train stations can be difficult enough at the best of times. But imagine what it’s like for disabled and elderly travellers who can’t use the stairs or escalators. According to the 2021 UK census, there are over 21,400,000 disabled and elderly British citizens, that’s 32% of the UK that might struggle to reach their platform or make it comfortably onto their train. This is something most of us take for granted, but what if you don’t have the access to the right facilities to help you reach your train on time? Or even worse, what happens when the train workers are on strike and there’s no one there to help?
40% of UK train stations not accessible to disabled and elderly
We think it’s fair to say that in the 21st century, travelling by train should not be an obstacle for disabled and elderly passengers. Yet the lack of train stations with passenger lifts is an area where progress has been appallingly slow. And in many train stations, no progress has been made at all.
According to a study by the disability charity Leonard Cheshire, more than 40% of UK train stations are not accessible to physically disabled people. Is that good enough? We don’t think so. With that in mind, we decided to conduct some research to find the UK’s most accessible train stations, and the least, based on traveller reviews.
The most disabled-friendly train stations in the UK
To conduct our research, we went right to the source by analysing passenger reviews. We Mmanually looked at the frequency of positive mentions of certain terms, such as ‘wheelchair-friendly’, ‘step-free’, ‘disabled-friendly’, ‘disabled toilets’, ‘friendly staff’, and many more. And the results are in…
1. London Paddington (23,870,510 annual travellers)
Coming out on top as the UK’s most accessible train station is London Paddington. Although the station is huge, there’s great signage to help people with mobility issues navigate their way around. The staff is also friendly and you can book ahead with the assistance team who are quick and efficient at providing platform ramps for boarding.
Accessibility and mobility features: There’s step-free access to all platforms, accessible ticket machines, induction loop availability, accessible toilets, ramps for train access, accessible public telephones, wheelchair availability and a seating area.
2. Glasgow Central (15,322,000 annual passengers)
Glasgow Central is another train station that fared very well. It also receives plenty of praise for its clear signage and benefits from an excellent Changing Places toilet hoist. Friendly assistance is also available at the Mobility Point in the main concourse.
Accessibility and mobility features: Although there’s no seating area, the station covers most of the other bases, with step-free access to all platforms, accessible ticket machines, induction loop availability and ramps for train access. Wheelchairs are available from the Mobility Point.
3. Manchester Piccadilly (19,581,442 annual travellers)
All of Manchester Piccadilly is easily accessible in a wheelchair and the station boasts lots of excellent accessibility features. The only downsides are that the lifts for platforms 13 and 14 are some way from the main concourse and there’s only one disabled toilet.
Accessibility and mobility features: Although there’s no induction loop availability, Manchester Piccadilly ticks every other box. That includes step-free access, train ramp access, accessible ticket machines, impaired access staff and the availability of wheelchairs.
4. Birmingham New Street (22,682,526 annual travellers)
Birmingham New Street is the largest of the city’s three train stations. It boasts modern and accessible facilities with wide lifts to every platform and a mobility assistance office that you can find next to the lift at platform 2. There are also friendly staff, plenty of seating areas and good signage.
Accessibility and mobility features: The only key feature Birmingham New Street lacks is an accessible ticket machine, which is clearly an issue if you want to buy your ticket on the day. Aside from that, it has accessible toilets, train ramp access, impaired access staff, induction loop availability, wheelchair availability and accessible public telephones.
5. Liverpool Lime Street (10,464,000 annual travellers)
Liverpool Lime Street finishes off our top five. It has excellent signage and lots of friendly staff if you need any help. It also has step-free access to the platforms and all the shops and cafes are level and have automatic doors.
Accessibility and mobility features: The one area where Liverpool Lime Street didn’t fare well was in its provision of seating areas. Apart from that, it ticked all the boxes, with accessible toilets, wheelchair availability, an induction loop, accessible ticket machines and a ramp for train access.
The least disabled-friendly train stations in the UK
All sorts of factors can make UK train stations a nightmare for the elderly and those with mobility issues, from a lack of wheelchair platform lifts to staff not arriving promptly to help them off trains. We manually looked at the frequency of terms such as ‘unhelpful staff’, ‘inaccessible’, ‘no disabled toilets’ and ‘not disabled friendly’ to compile our list.
1. London Liverpool Street (32,165,310 annual travellers)
The main problem people have at London Liverpool Street is poor signage. The lift to the ground level is difficult to find, and once you’re on the ground level, there are no signs pointing you towards the ramp to take you down to pavement level.
What travellers said:
“No wheelchair guidance”
“Appallingly inaccessible facilities”
“disabled customer care completely let down”
2. Manchester Victoria (5,820,000 annual travellers)
There was a shocking incident in the past when the station’s lifts were replaced and no temporary passenger lifts were provided, leaving passengers with disabilities to drag themselves up the stairs.
What travellers said:
“The staff working on the ticket gates at this station are extremely rude, unhelpful and generally not very nice to deal with”
“Really poor accessible access to the far platforms. One time when a lift was out of order I saw a man shuffling up the stairs on his backside while his wife carried his wheelchair”
3. Bristol Temple Meads (6,628,000 annual travellers)
Signage for disability access to the car park and disabled toilets is an issue for travellers at this station. This station also appears to have a problem with customer service with its staff coming third for the most mentions of rude or unhelpful staff.
What travellers said:
“It's not a great station for disabled people. Too many different platforms and nobody to help us”
“Very limited disabled parking. Not very accessible”
4. London Euston (23,079,606 annual travellers)
According to passengers, the assistance staff isn't always so helpful, with reviewers describing how they sometimes turn up late or take people to the wrong train. A lack of seating areas for elderly or disabled travellers also seems to be a problem at this station.
What travellers said:
“Not a lot of seating and all of them are taken up anyways. So if you are disabled you are screwed”
“Very little platform warning for trains which is difficult if disabled”
“The most unhelpful staff I have ever had the displeasure of dealing with”
5. Edinburgh Waverley (13,618,000 annual travellers)
It’s very much ‘all change at Waverley’, with passengers commenting that while it was trying to make improvements, those improvements weren’t always well thought out. There are two lifts to take you to the ticket office and platform level, but reviewers said these lifts were often ‘hogged’ by able-bodied people. It also has a new Changing Places toilet, although that has been described as dirty.
What travellers said:
“Dreadful disability support”
“customer services was rude and abrupt! Very unhelpful”
The most disabled-friendly train stations in London
As one of the most disabled-friendly train stations in the UK, Paddington also rules the roost in the capital, with the assistance team getting a special mention. London Victoria isn’t too far behind. It’s described as easy to navigate and has every mobility feature apart from accessible ticket machines.
Despite being one of London’s busiest train stations, King’s Cross does a good job of supporting its disabled passengers. Its three fully accessible disabled toilets, including a Changing Places toilet, are very well received. London’s Waterloo has friendly and helpful staff, is well-signposted and has an accessible ticket office and toilet. And while Charing Cross has no induction loop availability, it does have mobility staff, impaired ticket and booking office counters and level access platforms.
Accessible train stations for everyone
True accessibility is a full-time commitment. With more than 21,400,000 people depending on step-free accessibility and passenger lifts every day, you cannot overlook that commitment when your lifts are being maintained or part of the station is closed for renovations.
Want nothing but happy travellers and positive reviews, even with your station lift being out of order? Maintain step-free access with a temporary passenger lift from RECO Lift Solutions.