Disabled Access on Trains – Challenges & Solutions

We know it can be difficult getting around the country via trains regardless of having a disability. Every week there seems to be more cancellations and delays than the week before and we constantly hear about the ongoing disputes between the companies and workers' unions. The continuous strikes mean that we, the public, are left with a very fractured service and we can't get anywhere fast. It recently took me over 3 hours to travel to London, a journey that used to take under 2 hours. To think these journeys are extremely stressful is an understatement. Having a disability can compound this further, it should be easy for a wheelchair user to use every type of public transport but it seems it is becoming more difficult on trains in recent years. There is hope on the horizon with a £250m investment to Midland Metro being announced by Theresa May this morning but then that targets only a small area of the country. The long term project of High Speed 2 is, from the outside, promising but then it'll not start services for over 9 years if it's on time. It is also poses the questions will the brand new trains be compatible with the current stations along those lines. 

Expensive Fares

This is not predominantly a factor affecting disabled people however I thought I would mention it as it is an issue that affects everyone. Train fares have risen in recent times to extortionate levels and I've experienced a poorer service as time has gone on. Every week there seems to be a delay or cancellation for some reason or another and it can become very frustrating. If train operators are going to rise ticket prices then I expect an increase in the standard of service however that's not what I've seen, with people getting lower value for money. Disabled people can find it difficult using trains at the best of times but having to use a dodgy ramp to embark and disembark the train makes the experience worse. You'd have thought that with an increase in fares the train operators would invest more in disabled access but it doesn't seem apparent. Across Europe the large French and German operators have invested heavily into disabled access supplying lifts from the train to the platform. Compared with the UK, they've made it far easier for disabled people to use the train network and therefore get around the country. It doesn't seem like there is going to be a massive reduction in fares in the near future so it would be great to see our money being invested more wisely into integral services such as disabled access. 

Railway Platform

A common sight on British Railways

Gap Between Train and Platform

Large Gap Between the Train and Platform

Old Trains

An issue that affects everyone and not just those with a disability is that trains from the 1980s still exist in certain parts of the country. Are these trains that are nearly 40 years old fit for service for the general public let alone wheelchair users? Simple answer - no they're not. The average age of a train on Britain's railways is over 20 years old and with an ever ageing and growing population, can these trains handle the demand? These older trains can be up to half a metre higher than the platform level and so makes disabled access a nightmare. A standard disability ramp in the UK has to have a gradient of between 1:12 to 1:20 - that would mean a 50cm height difference would have to have a 6 metre long ramp. Conventional disabled access ramps like these are cumbersome and difficult to manoeuvre in the short space of time a train stops at a station, in addition many platforms do not have 6 metres of space to work with.

Differing Heights and Trains

It seems strange that trains and platforms would vary in height so much, the apparent reason is due to constant network development with several stations being built over the decades since the Victorian Era. However you'd expect that there would be a standard height of platform or train floor but that doesn't seem to be the case. This is compounded by different train operators having slightly different designs and different types of trains having completely different operating heights. For example in the UK the "standard height" of a platform is 915mm but this can still vary, the Heathrow Express has platforms that measure 1100mm high. High Speed 1 connecting London to the Channel Tunnel has platforms measuring 760mm high and High Speed 2 will either have 550mm or 760mm platforms. These discrepancies are illogical but they exist and so we need to find a way to bridge these gaps. Sometimes these gaps between the train floor height and the platform are not manageable for able bodied people let alone wheelchair users.

This can be a difficult problem to solve for a station manager especially if he has more than one type of train going through his station. He could have different lengths of ramp depending on the train floor height but then he would have to have several different ramps and places to store them as well as the additional cost. Ease of use of should be at the forefront of everyone's minds, how can we make these services better for the customers. A simple but effective method to get around varying train heights is to have a portable train lift, easy to use and can rise up to a 1 metre to meet the train's floor level. Portable disabled access lifts are affordable and can be easily moved into position something station managers can find difficult with cumbersome ramps. 

Old Train

Older Train Models Have Different Heights Compared with Newer Models

Gap Between Train and Platform

Lower Platforms Create Large Gaps Between the Train and the Platform

Time

Trains are a time critical service, a small amount of time lost at one station can impact the onward journey and make a train late at it's terminal stop. It seems like we're stuck in the dark ages when it comes to disabled access for trains, several years behind Europe. With great variation within the distance between the train and the platform, getting the right ramp can be an arduous process and can be very time consuming. It can require 2 or more staff to manoeuvre into position then help the disabled passenger disembark the train. This can take a relatively long period of time and depending on the height of the train, the station manager might have to use different ramps. A simple solution to these problems is the portable disabled access train lift. It can be stored on the platform and then easily wheeled out when needed. As it is an adjustable platform lift it could operate at any height up to 1 metre and only needs one person to wheel it out and use it rather than 2 or more that can be used when positioning a ramp. 

The Solution

Disabled access is pretty lacklustre across Britain with ramps the predominantly used solution. However with varying platform sizes across the country and train operators using different carriage designs you would need more than one ramp. Ramps can also be cumbersome and take more than one person to simply position it in place ready for a disabled passenger. A portable train lift can be kept on the platform and simply wheeled out when needed. The lift can cover heights of up to 1 metre above the platform level and can be easily driven up and down to meet the train's floor level. In addition it only takes one person to move it into position then operate it. This frees up time for the other station staff to carry out other tasks therefore makes the station more efficient. 

Portable Train Life

Portable Train Lift

Disabled Access for Trains

Disabled Access for Trains

Platform Lift for Trains

Platform Lift for Trains

For more information about our disabled access solutions for the transport sector click here 

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The Challenges of Historic and Listed Buildings

Firstly, as a company we are very grateful to visit some beautiful historic and listed buildings that warrant national and international acclaim. We also love working in this fantastic locations and tackling the complicated problems that for the most part centuries old buildings can throw at us. We all know that they can be tricky to deal with whether you're the building's owner, a construction management company or even a lift engineering business like us. In this following article we're going to look at the challenges that can present themselves when working in a historic or listed buildings and how we can overcome them.

Removal or Alteration of a Building

It's all well and good being asked to come to site to measure and provide a quotation for a lift for a historic or listed building. However due to listings even getting a lift into position can prove challenging. Unlike normal buildings where you could simply remove part of a wall or make a small change, do that on a listed building and you'll have hell to pay for it. Sometimes this can be good as it allows us to use our creative side to design and develop a lift that has to overcome this tricky obstacle. We do love working in historic and listed buildings and designing lifts that seamlessly blend into the surrounding aesthetics.

Pub Lift Installation

Pub Lift Installation - Top floor of the lift at the Dancing Man Brewery showing glass lift shaft.

Pub Lift Installation - Ground Floor

Pub Lift Installation - Ground Floor lift access in Grade 1 listed building.

National Theatre Lift Interior

Passenger Lift at the National Theatre

Finding Something Unexpected

These are the issues that can stop your project before it's even got started or put the start date back by several months or even years. In buildings that are several hundreds of years old you should expect to find something of historic importance but it is always a surprise when they appear. The "surprises" can vary from a secretive Jacobean era priest hole that needs to be preserved or even bones of a 11th Century monk. Excavation is a very important part of the initial building process especially when lifts require a pit below the floor level. Churches seem to have the greatest risk of presenting surprises due to the age and the quantity of people being buried in the building or in the grounds. You always have your fingers crossed when you get a phone call from the site management company when you know they've just excavated where the lift is supposedly going. 

Sizes and Awkwardness

We've had lifts delivered to tiny areas or put into very small spaces but listed buildings can be another kettle of fish. The simple task of moving the lift from where it was delivered to where it is actually going to be can take hours to navigate tiny passageways. We are usually one of the last trades on site as the builders have laid our structure, the plasterers have already done their job and the decorators are splashing the walls with paint so we are up against a time constraint. This combined with a difficult to navigate site means it can extend lift installation. In order to make it more manageable and easier to move around site we can have our lifts delivered in smaller parts however that can extend the process of installation.

Electrical issues

For the most part publicly owned historic or listed buildings are fairly well covered with modern wiring found around the whole of the building. However in private projects the story can be the polar opposite. I live in a Grade II listed house and know the difficulties of trying to modernise even basic features. A lot of the privately owned listed buildings that we have had a pleasure of working on are from 18th Century or before and sometimes it seems like their wiring is also from these times. The majority of our lifts run off single phase 240V actuators and so are easy to connect to the mains and are energy efficient. However in some listed buildings even this can prove difficult. Every single listed site that we visit is unique and poses its own challenges and part of the fun of the job is tackling these issues and adding more skills to our repertoire.

Lifts at the York Theatre Royal
York Theatre Royal Lift

Matching Aesthetics

Ok so this isn't really issue and we love creating lifts that are "hidden" in plain sight but some designs can be more difficult than others. In the past we've had to use the exact same materials or original suppliers. For example at the National Theatre on London's Southbank we had to have the ceiling anodised bronze, it was done by the same company that anodised the original ceiling in 1976, we even used the same original carpet from 1971 on the lift's floor. For more about that particular project click here. Historic and listed buildings provide us the opportunity to create a very high specification of product which we love doing, being able to put all our skills on show is why we're in this business. To give you an example of what the work we're currently undertaking is that we're retrofitting an 1850s lift into a modern lift, using the same rosewood panelling and even the same Victorian lift curtain. We love creating unique lifts that are tailor made to the highest standards and quality.

For more information about our projects in historic and listed buildings click here and to see photos of our lifts in historic and listed buildings click here

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10 Reasons to Have a Home Lift

Before we start, this list is completely objective and we know that our clients and customers get lifts for many different unique reasons. So in no particular order the first reason is...

1. Accessibility

One of the main reasons why someone would look to have a lift installed is due to accessibility - this could be in the form of a wheelchair user or if you've recently had an accident and now find it difficult to walk. A home lift helps you access every part of your home without difficulty. Everyone deserves to have freedom in their own home and a home lift can be a life changing benefit without breaking the bank.

2. Functionality

A lot of home lifts are installed as the client wants to be able to use the lift for other purposes then just moving themselves throughout the house. No one likes lugging heavy goods up and down the stairs, a home lift can make those journeys disappear and you'll be surprised by how many things you can get into even the smallest home lift. Whether you're about to go on holiday and have to carry your suitcases or you've just purchased some furniture, a home lift can be the perfect answer. Gone are those horrible early mornings where you're trying to walk the suitcase down the stairs without marking the walls or putting your back out.

3. Staying in Your Own Home

We don't know what life is ever going to throw at us, however we can always prepare for what could happen. If you have a serious accident it can be a life changing experience and make the 1st floor of your home completely inaccessible. This means you face the following options: you can either remodel your home extensively so now you can live on the ground floor, move out of your home to a new house or install a small home lift that would allow you to access every part of your home again. Home lifts are becoming as affordable as ever and can change your life completely and let you find your freedom again.

 

Glass Home Lift

4. Futureproof

Futureproof is a buzz word in both the lift industry as well as in the housing market. More and more technological advancements are being brought into the home at an alarming rate. Whether it's your fridge giving you a weather update or ordering your food shop through a speaker we are creating fantastic inventions. We all know that we grow up and get older so in order to help us with life's inevitable difficulties a home lift can be the answer. And if you go to sell the house at any point then the addition of a home lift will definitely make it more attractive potential buyers.

5. Adds Value to Your Property

Every person who has spoken to a home lift salesman has probably heard this line during their sales pitch. We hate to say it but it's true, with an ever-ageing population, most buyers expect to get value for money. In the most affluent areas of the country, home lifts are becoming more and more commonplace. Sellers and homeowners are realising that to make their property stand out and be more attractive to buyers they need the convenience of a home lift. Lifts can act as an investment because they are for the most part inexpensive but can add significant value to your home or even be the key difference in a potential buyer putting in an offer.

6. Statement & Style

Gone are the clunky designs of the past, now we have sleek and attractive lift styles and a whole array of finishes to choose from so a client's lift is truly unique. We've been in the lift industry for over 40 years and have seen a massive increase in the features and luxury styles that can now be installed. Rather than being hid away in a cupboard (we do still do hidden lifts) home lifts are now being made into statement pieces in the home, a glamorous luxury in the hallway or a external glass structure fixed to the building. Being based in East Dorset we see the building styles of Sandbanks, Canford Cliffs and Bournemouth each day. Angular houses with glass being a prominent feature are everywhere and now lifts can make a similar statement.

7. Safety

It might sound a bit strange but lifts really can make your home safer especially for the very young and the elderly. The amount of times we hear of young children or the elderly falling down stairs is continuously rising. With an ever-increasing older population we really need to look into ways to make our homes safer and one of these options is to install a home lift. With advancements in technology and parts becoming standardised, the cost of having a home lift is constantly declining. In addition the size of mechanisms is always becoming smaller so there is no need for a large amount of builders' work. 

Glass Lift in Flats
Glass Home Lift

8. Convenience

It might sound silly but a lot of people look to get a home lift purely for convenience, we see many of our customers who live in converted or refurbished town houses have small home lifts installed. Town houses, particularly those in London can have 4 to 6 floors and so a home lift is the easiest way of getting from floor to floor rather than struggling up a tight staircase.

9. Save Space

Stairs can surprisingly take up a lot of room in your house without you knowing it. It sounds like a strange alternative but a home lift is a perfect as it frees space up on every floor. You can ever have the lift in an external shaft fitted to the outside of your house, saving more space. There are many different options and products available so the size of the lift can be really small - you can even have them in cupboards with your choice of door clad to the lift so it would be hidden in plain sight.

10. Security

A home lift can be used as part of a wider security package. If a home lift is fitted with key switches then the lift can only be operated by those individuals with the right keys. If the lift is the only way of getting from the ground floor to the first floor then it creates a physical barrier so that unwanted individuals cannot reach the first floor and beyond.

For more information about the different types of home lifts that we design and install click here and to see our completed home lift projects click here

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Platform Lift at New Forest Ice Cream

We were approached by New Forest Ice Cream, one of the largest independent ice cream producers in the UK. They were looking to install disabled access to the 1st floor at their head office in Lymington, Hampshire. New Forest Ice Cream is a family run business that was established over 30 years ago and has supplied the nation with the highest quality products. 

After attending site and having a meeting with the client it was clear they wanted a practical lift that would have lots of space. This was so that 1st floor of the office was accessible for disabled members of staff as well as any visitors who used wheelchairs. We installed a disabled platform lift measuring 1100mm x 1400mm - enough space for a wheelchair as well as a carer if necessary in it's own aluminium structure. The total distance the lift travelled was 4.5 metres across the 2 floors. The lift was finished with glass swing landing doors which were painted blue with the rest of the shaft painted white to match the building's interior. The lift was installed within 3 days.

To see more of our platform lift projects in commercial buildings take a look at our National Army Museum, Chiswell StreetSouthwark CouncilSeven Dials and Medway Court projects.

Location: Hampshire

Status: Complete

Year Completed: 2011

Platform Lift at New Forest Ice Cream

For more information about lifts like the one above call us on 0800 65 252 65 or email us

Platform Lift at Venture House in Reading

GPAD, the London based architecture firm, approached us as they wanted to install disabled access into the main entrance of a commercial office block they had recently designed in Reading. Venture House is a former print works building that has recently been refurbished creating 6 floors of commercial offices in the heart of Reading.

GPAD wanted a platform lift that would suit the modern interior of this iconic building but also not break the bank. We designed and installed a Midilevel platform lift with dimensions of 1100mm x 1400mm. The lift travel distance is 1.2 metres and provides disabled access at the main entrance of the building. The lift was finished in black painted steel to match the surrounding balustrade with a mesh door designed for the lift car and a glass door chosen for the upper level.

The lift was installed in 3 days and a gap of 22mm was left on the lift platform so that the building contractors could finish the tiles on the side. The tiles used on the lift matched the rest of the flooring so there was a seamless transition from landing to platform.

To see more of our platform lift projects in commercial buildings take a look at our National Army Museum, Chiswell Street, Southwark Council, Seven Dials and Medway Court projects.

Location: Berkshire

Status: Complete

Year Completed: 2017

In partnership with

Commercial Platform Lift

Platform Lift at Venture House - Upper Level

Commercial Building Platform Lift

Platform Lift at Venture House in Reading

Commercial Building Platform Lift

Glass Upper Door at Venture House

For more information about lifts like the one above call us on 0800 65 252 65 or email us

Glass Home Lift in St John’s Wood, London

We were approached by a private client in St John's Wood, Central London, who wanted a glass home lift running across 5 floors of his house. St John's Wood is a largely residential area of London, adjacent to Regent's Park and home of Lord's cricket ground. It is an extremely affluent district of London with large detached properties contrary to London's usual townhouse homes.  With this in mind the client wanted a lift that would live up to his expectations and seamlessly blend into the aesthetics of his home.

After attending the site to measure the lift shaft we submitted the drawings and discussed with the client his vision and exactly what he wanted in regards to style and finishes. He made it clear that he wanted the lift to look very modern and be completed in a full glass structure with glass doors. We fitted an EP Elfo with cabin dimensions of 950mm x 1000mm which travelled a total distance of 10.5 metres across 5 floors. The lift was finished with panoramic glass doors that were 800mm wide creating a spacious cabin interior. The glass finish for both the structure and doors meant that the lift matched the client's modern and luxurious specifications. 

To see more of home and residential lift projects have a look at our WhitecliffWestbourneBranksome ParkTorquay, Weymouth and Powys projects.

 

Location: London

Status: Complete

Year Completed: 2016

Glass Home Lift in London

Glass Home Lift in St John's Wood

Glass Domestic Lift

Glass Home Lift in Central London

London Home Lift

Home Lift in St John's Wood

For more information about lifts like the one above call us on 0800 65 252 65 or email us

Goods Lift at Commercial Office in the City of London

We were approached by ISG, the construction management company, as they needed a lift installed during their refit of Dixon House, a large commercial office building in the City of London. ISG needed a lift that could be used for disabled access but would predominantly be used for moving heavy goods such as large refuse bins. They needed a lift that could carry over 2000kg of goods across the 2 floor levels. As with many buildings in the City, space at Dixon House is at a premium and so the goods lift had to be made with a specially designed platform to fit the abnormal space. The goods lift had to be be made into a right angled trapezium shape to fit the space of the service entrance of the building. 

The goods lift has platform dimensions of 4050mm x 1500mm and travels a total distance of 1750mm. The lift had to have a 550mm pit below the finished floor level so that the lift's scissor mechanism would fit and the platform would be at the same height as the finished floor level. The lift has handrails on one side with a stainless steel sliding gate so that access is provided even when the lift isn't in use. The goods lift's was finished with a 50mm x 6mm galvanised steel edge so that the client's concrete flooring could be laid onto the platform to match the surrounding floor. 

To see more of our platform lift projects in commercial buildings take a look at our National Army Museum, Chiswell StreetSouthwark CouncilSeven Dials and Venture House projects.

Location: London

Status: Complete

Year Completed: 2017

In partnership with

Heavy Goods Lift in London

Heavy Goods Lift at Dixon House

Commercial Goods Lift

Commercial Goods Lift in the City of London

For more information about lifts like the one above call us on 0800 65 252 65 or email us

Platform Lift for Commercial Offices in Southwark

We were approached by Southwark Council because they needed to provide disabled access to their offices on Southwark Bridge Road, SE1. At the name suggests they are close to the river therefore right in the heart of London. Similar to many other commercial offices in the city, space is at a premium and it can be difficult to fit any type of disabled access in existing properties. After taking measurements of the area where a lift could be fitted, we came up with a drawing and submitted it to the council, who then ordered the lift.

Our engineers installed a LPA - a special lifting platform, designed by our manufacturer in Denmark - with platform dimensions of 1519mm x 1184mm. The lift had to keep to these very specific measurements because the building has a steel shutter that has to completely shut to stop the public from entering the building outside of office opening hours. The platform lift has a total travel distance of 780mm to the ground floor level. The lift was finished in stainless steel so that the lift would be able to withstand the day-to-day footfall of a busy commercial office in London. The side panels as well as the car and landing doors were finished in glass.

To see more examples of our platform lifts in commercial buildings, have a look at our Venture House, Seven Dials, National Army Museum and Chiswell Street projects.

Location: London

Status: Complete

Year Completed: 2015

 

Commercial Platform Lift

Platform Lift at Commercial Offices in Southwark

Council Platform Lift

Disabled Platform Lift for Southwark Council in Central London

Commercial Office Platform Lift

Platform Lift in the Main Entrance of Southwark Council's Offices

For more information about lifts like the one above call us on 0800 65 252 65 or email us

Platform Lift at Seven Dials, London

In conjunction with our previous project at Venture House in Reading, the architectural firm, GPAD asked us to design and install a similar lift for one of their buildings in Seven Dials in London. Seven Dials is a commercial area a stone's throw away from the West End's Shaftesbury Avenue and the shopping district of Neal's Yard. It sits between Covent Garden and Soho and is named after the 7 roads that join together at its centre.

Having previously worked with GPAD on their Venture House project, we knew that they wanted a similar style and finish for this lift. Our engineers fitted the Qube lift in the main entrance during GPAD's renovation of the building into commercial offices. The lift has platform dimensions of 900mm x 1400mm and travels a total distance of 1250mm. This specialist platform lift works using a scissor system therefore needs a pit below the floor level. In this particular project we had a pit of 250mm. We set the platform height at 15mm below the floor level so that the client could fit their tiles to the platform to match the lobby's existing stone flooring. Specially made Cadisch mesh panels were fitted to the sides and gates of the lift to match the building's style as well as the architect's vision. We finished the platform lift in jet black (RAL colour 9005) to give a modern but industrial look. Our engineers installed the lift within 4 days so it was ready for the building's official opening.

To see more of our platform lift projects in commercial buildings take a look at our National Army Museum, Chiswell Street, Southwark Council and Medway Court projects.

Location: London

Status: Complete

Year Completed: 2017

In partnership with

Commercial Platform Lift

Platform Lift at in Commercial Office Building in Seven Dials

Platform Lift in Commercial Buildings

Platform Lift with Open Top Gate

Specialist Disabled Platform Lift

Platform Lift with Specially Made Mesh Panels

For more information about lifts like the one above call us on 0800 65 252 65 or email us

Glass Lift in Luxury Flats in Weymouth

We were approached by a private client in Weymouth who had converted a seaside house into large modern residential apartments spread across 3 floors. Seadown is in the Preston area of Weymouth and only a short walk to Overcombe beach. Many newly built or renovated properties by the sea such as this one have cutting edge designs and have to be built to very high specifications so that they can be easily sold. With this in mind many developers and building contractors are looking to future proof these types of homes as potential buyers expect these expensive properties to have a lift. Whether it is luxury apartments or a fully detached house, a small platform lift can add value to a home. It can be the difference between a property that gets snapped up straightaway and one that stays on the market for months. Our client had built his new property, Seadown, in this exact frame of mind and asked us to measure and design a lift for him as he had already built a lift shaft. For smaller properties that have half a dozen or so flats a conventional passenger lift can take up too much room which takes away valuable space in the flats. Our smaller platform lifts need less space both above and below the lift as well as having less moving parts so lower maintenance costs.

After measuring the lift shaft and submitting a drawing to the client we got the go ahead to order and then install the lift in the flats. We fitted an EP Elfo which has a total travel distance of 6000mm across the 3 floors with an internal cabin of 1280mm x 1000mm. The lift was fitted with 5 automatic self closing doors across the 3 floors - the 800mm-wide doors were finished with smoked glass to match the modern decor of the property. The lift was fitted in under 2 weeks and now makes sure that the flats are accessible for all residents. It also makes it easier for residents to transport heavy goods to their flats and even shopping.

To see more of home and residential lift projects have a look at our Whitecliff, Westbourne, Branksome Park, Torquay and Powys projects.

Location: Dorset

Status: Completed

Year Completed: 2015

Glass Apartments Lift

Glass Lift in Flats in Weymouth

Glass Lift in Flats

Glass Lift in Flats - Upper Floor

For more information about lifts like the one above call us on 0800 65 252 65 or email us