London's iconic underground rail system has shut down its last remaining wooden escalator to help make way for a new set of innovative incline lifts.
The wooden escalator located at Greenford Tube Station in west London put in its final day of service this month, following well over half a century of operation.
The escalator was opened a few years after the end of World War II in 1947, and is the last in London’s entire underground tube system to feature wooden treads instead of metallic ones.
Wooden escalators had been common in London’s tube system for most of the 20th century, until the King’s Cross fire of 1987 prompted authorities to gradually phase them out in favour of less flammable replacements.
The closure of the wooden escalator will help pave the way for the installation of an innovative new mobility device in the London underground – the glass incline lift.
The incline lift consists of a lift which travels along a slanted path running parallel to existing escalators, making it far cheaper and easier to install than traditional vertical lifts.
According to a cost analysis undertaken by Transport for London, the incline lift will cost only 2.2 million pounds to install at the Greenford tube station – a huge savings compared to the 10 million pounds required to put a traditional vertical lift in place.
While incline lifts can already be found in Europe and North America, Greenford’s incline lift will be the first installed in the UK, and promises to make the station step free and far more accessible for disabled and elderly rail passengers by as soon as spring 2015.
“As part of our commitment to make the Tube more accessible, work is on schedule to make Greenford Tube station step-free by next year,” said David Waboso, London Underground’s director of capital programmes. “The innovative glass incline lift will go up and down right by the newly widened staircase and the other new escalator, with users able to see out as well as being seen.”
Crossrail and Transport for London plan to install a total of 54 incline lifts in the British underground rail system to dramatically increase its accessibility, including 49 lifts at new Crossrail stations and five at London Underground stations.