Brexit delaying broken down lifts being fixed causing accessibility concerns

Brexit is partially delaying lifts in the UK being fixed, according to an engineer working in the industry.

Due to delays at the EU border and a lack of stock being stored in the UK, lifts are staying broken down for longer, according to the CEO of Lift and Escalator Consultancy Dave Cooper.

The impact of this, he said, is less accessibility to public services, businesses and residences for people with disabilities.

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“We have very little manufacturing in the UK anymore, so lifts are not being made in the UK,” said Mr Cooper. “A lot of this is what we call package lifts and they come in from Spain, Italy and Greece where this is still manufacturing. So when you’ve got one of these packages and something breaks down, you’ve still got to wait for a part.

Out of order lift at York station. Pic: Flick WilliamsOut of order lift at York station. Pic: Flick Williams
Out of order lift at York station. Pic: Flick Williams

“Traditionally you still had to wait for parts anyway because of transportation and the pure physical time of that, but it’s got worse with border controls and things like that.”

Mr Cooper added that goods “being stuck at the border is one of the big issues” and that before the UK left the EU, parts would arrive within “two or three days”.

“Now all they can say is we’ll order it now but we don’t know when we’ll get it because it could get tied up or it could come straight through,” he said. “That time could double or even more.”

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It’s not just delays at the border that causes the problem, according to Mr Cooper, but the lack of stock kept by companies in the UK also contributes to lifts not being fixed quickly enough.

“The lift industry doesn’t store a huge amount of stock in the UK and that’s where the issues are,” Mr Cooper said. “Lift maintenance contractors could keep more stock, but keeping more stock is dead money. Individual lift owners could risk assess their components of the impact at the event of a breakdown and they could get what we call critical spares.”

Mr Cooper said buying spares that would take a long time to replace could help ease some of the delays in getting lifts fixed.

“We have a lot of residential buildings in the UK that have single lifts in them and we have mobility impaired people,” he added. “You hear stories all the time of people being stuck in their residences because they can’t get out because the lift is broken.”

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Flick Williams is a disability rights activist and said lifts being broken is a constant problem she faces as a wheelchair user who can’t use stairs.

When catching the train at York station she said “it effectively means only one subway becomes accessible and then you have to wait a lot longer for a lift.”

Ms Williams added: “Some of us who don’t have a vehicle have Hobson’s Choice really to use public transport in whatever state it’s in. But the lift problem is not just at the station; it’s honestly everywhere. In so many more shops I’m going to, the lifts are out of order and they say ‘sorry we can’t get the parts’.

“The better shops say ‘do you want anything brought down’ and I’ll say no because the whole point of shopping in person is browsing. If the lift is out of order they’ve lost my custom effectively.”

According to Mr Cooper: “There is no easy fix.”

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He added: “I was a remainer; I’m firmly of the view that we should have remained and we would have been better off remaining. The issue is not only for our industry but for other industries as well. It’s a problem that only politicians can solve really.”

The UK government was approached for comment, but a response wasn’t sent by the time of publication.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “While recent issues with the lifts at York station have been unrelated to supply chain problems, nationally we have seen an increase in Brexit-related challenges to source replacement parts on lifts.

“Network Rail is changing the way it works to reduce the impact lift failures have on passengers. We are building a greater supply of critical spare parts across the network so faults can be fixed more quickly, and we are also looking at how we can work more effectively with other suppliers to meet our needs.”

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