Reports and Campaigns
Reports and campaigns:
TUC must address demo access issue
FOLLOWING INITIAL reports in February that coaches bringing demonstrators to the Trades Union Congress 'March for the Alternative' on 26 March would not be allowed into central London, disability rights group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) wrote to the TUC raising concerns about disability access.
A Unison member
The TUC argue there is not enough room in central London for the 500-plus coaches expected. Buses dropping off at Victoria Embankment, where the march begins, would delay those still arriving, and demonstrators would have difficulty finding their transport at the end of the march.
But its alternative is to get coaches to park at Wembley Stadium, the Excel Conference Centre and New Covent Garden, located many miles away.
Following already lengthy journeys, demonstrators will be expected to find their own way into and out of central London, and there is a risk that people travelling back to unfamiliar coach parks will not find their bus in time before it leaves.
DPAC is particularly concerned about the inaccessibility of much of London's tube system. Whilst disabled people travelling from Wembley and the Excel will be able to use accessible stations on the Jubilee line to travel to the beginning of the march, none of the many stations around Hyde Park, where the march ends, are step-free between street level and the station platforms.
Although the TUC can point to drop-off and pick-up points near the Embankment and at Hyde Park for specialist transport for groups of disabled people, this fails to recognise that many disabled people from outside London will travel with their non-disabled friends, family, work and union colleagues by coach.
DPAC correctly points out that when two million people marched on 15 February 2003 against Britain's involvement in the Iraq war coaches parked in central London, and there were no problems with people arriving or departing from this demonstration.
Also, the use of drop-off points outside central London could set a dangerous precedent that may be used by the Metropolitan Police to hinder people attending future demonstrations as the Con-Dems' cuts intensify.
The TUC has responded to DPAC's request for a static demonstration of those unable to march at Hyde Park, but it also needs to use its considerable resources to work with disabled campaigners to address the appalling inaccessibility of the tube system.
Of London's 270 tube stations, only 65 will be step-free from the platform to street level by the Olympics.