Accessibility design on the Tube

Turquoise moquette

When you go about your normal commute, if you’re an able-bodied individual, you might not have noticed the subtle features that are embedded into the design of London Underground.

Whether that be the flooring colours, the poles, the seating fabric (moquette), or even those little grooves near the Tube doors.

Here is a virtual tour of some of our design features on the Tube. With an interview from Product Design Manager: Paul Marchant, who discusses the role design plays in accessibility and our network. 🗣

Product Design Manager: Paul Marchant

‘There’s a requirement for contrast on Rail between the grab poles and the seating. There’s also a contrast requirement for the flooring to be different in the vestibule. In other words, the flooring in the part of the train with the doors where you enter the train, and then the aisles have to be different.

The contrast has to be what we call a 30-point-contrast. But contrast isn’t necessarily a linear thing. You get different scores at different levels along the line.

But we also try to achieve good practice. We try and make contrast between all surfaces, so the side walls are one colour, the roof is another, the ceiling is another and so on. However, with all those contrasting elements, if you’re not careful you’ll end up having something which is chequered. So our job is actually to use colour within those contrast to orchestrate an interior that’s attractive, engaging and consistent as far as our brand identity and our customers’ expectations are concerned.’

Compare how the carriage looks in colour and black and white

Floor design

This picture shows three different colours of Tube train floor

A darker and lighter colour is used in different areas, which are the aisle (near the seats) and the area near the Tube doors.

This is so that passengers with reduced vision can denote the difference more easily.

The bottom two flooring samples are two options for lighter colours.

Flooring samples showing contrast

TfL colours

A swatch of all the corporate colours (such as colours used in each of the Tube lines).

Colour swatches

Priority and standard moquette

A slightly different coloured seating fabric is used on the standard and priority seats (the seats
closer to the doors).

This is to subtly denote the fact that these should be offered up to those who are less able to stand on their journey.

This is because they’re closer to the exits, so that passengers with reduced mobility can exit with comparative ease, as opposed to the seats in the
middle of the row.

An embedded badge with text which is weaved into the fabric also labels these seats.

Priority badge on seat moquette

Wheelchair spaces

The wheelchair standback is closer to the door for the convenience of passenger. ♿️

Wheelchair space

Floor grooves

These flooring grooves serve a few purposes.

  • They are anti-slip in wet weather, where
    the water sinks into the grooves and runs down the sides and off the train, preventing accidents.
  • Another feature of these groves is that they provide tactile feedback for visually impaired
    passengers who use a cane, so that they can get a feeling of where the door is in relation to
    where they are standing, much like the ‘tactile paving’ we see on road crossings, with the raised
Double doors flooring
Single door flooring

Corportate Archives

This story was combined with the help of our corporate archives team.

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