I am back from my travels along the Silk Road in Uzbekistan and Western China. Uzbekistan is no longer under Soviet rule and is re-emerging as a vibrant country with a rich culture. Tourism is a key factor and new infrastructure for roads and very fast rail was a surprise. New airports, train stations, and hotels abound. I could see some attempts at accessibility, but nothing was joined up. It was a great pity to see a brand new airport with six steps to the entrance. This was a recurring theme.
Over the border in Western China the station for the very fast train has 56 steps up to the platform and many more before that. The escalator needed a key to start it, but no person with a key could be found. Regardless, managing bags on an escalator is not optimum. The presence of a wheelchair platform lift gave the idea that compliance to some sort of standard was considered, but not the regular travelling public with their bags. So no passenger lift. Much of the rail infrastructure is elevated hence the steps both up to the station entrance and then more up to the platform.
On arrival at the heritage site for the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, men with wheelchairs approached us and vied for customers. For a small fee you could be pushed around the very large area of three warrior pits and a museum. However, only trolley ramps were available and most people had to get out and walk up the steps. I did find one access sign though. One person in our group took advantage of this service. It was interesting to see how popular the Silk Road journey is for residents of both Uzbekistan and China – both are keen to re-discover their heritage.
Travelling the Silk Road is not for the faint-hearted. Steps abound due to the nature of the heritage buildings that include many steps as a matter of course. Major hotels are not much better, but it is expected that staff will help. And the many security checks mean lots of lifting and shifting of luggage too.
Many thanks to fellow director, Queenie Tran for looking after the newsletter and website in my absence.
Remember you can support the hosting of the website and newsletter by becoming a member for just $25 a year. Jane Bringolf, Editor