At the Monthly Meeting on 6 July there was much concern about the access for the new island platform to be constructed at Cambridge station. This led to a visit by a group of Campaign members to Audley End station where they tried out the new lifts and stairs.
The internal dimensions of the lift are 1.6 m x 1.6 m with a 12 cm recess by the doors. This means it is possible to fit two bikes plus luggage and riders inside comfortably, or one bike and rider plus one wheelchair and wheelchair-pusher. Three bikes plus luggage plus riders was a very tight squeeze and in practice would be slower. Of course, capacity for bikes does depend upon whether there is someone in a wheelchair or lots of people with luggage wanting to use the lift.
Members timed the lift, finding it took 66 seconds to open, go up, come back down and open again. So that means that it can transport roughly 2 bikes per minute.
One lift of these dimensions is proposed as part of the access to the new island platforms at Cambridge.
The stairs at Audley End are 2.59 m wide at floor level but handrails on either side reduce the width to 2.39 m. The steps are 297 mm deep (from front to back) and 172 mm high. That’s a pitch of 58%, too steep for most people to wheel a laden bike up or down and there are no channels or gutters to make the task easier. There are three flights of 11 or 12 steps separated by landings about 1.6 m deep with an additional landing at the top, between the top step and the bridge corridor.
The one set of stairs proposed for Cambridge would be only slightly wider – we were told 3.3 m, but handrails and guttering, which is being seriously considered, reduce the effective width.
It will be possible to fit two bicycles at a time into the lift proposed for Cambridge – provided that space has not already been taken up by people (with or without luggage) or anyone in a wheelchair.
The stairs will be of a reasonable width but need gutters to make it easier to wheel a bicycle up or down them.
Given the large numbers of cyclists and people with wheeled luggage who use Cambridge station there is clearly still potential for congestion, especially when the lift is not in operation or out of order. The one at Audley End is meant to operate round the clock but a wheelchair user at the station told us that they are turned off at 7 pm. We are concerned that at peak times there will be severe inconvenience, congestion and some danger because many people, including children and the elderly, will be struggling to carry luggage or to push bicycles up the guttering. Better access resulting from larger lifts and wider staircases would benefit not just cyclists but all station users.