How to travel with a large dog on London tube (avoiding escalators)

Argo in the tube

Getting around in London on public transport is fast and convenient. Even with a dog. However, if you travel with a large four-legged friend, escalators can become your nightmare. It is a matter of common knowledge that dogs may get injured on escalators: fur, nails or skin can get trapped into moving staircases’ teeth causing serious harm to your pet. So, unless you are Ryan Gosling – who was pictured few years back carrying his beloved furry companion George – or you are otherwise strong enough to carry your dog for an escalator ride, you may want to look for ways to avoid moving staircases.

In this post I will tell you the tricks of a trouble-free (aka escalator-free) tube ride with your weighty furry companion. In addition, I will also provide you with some advice for the case your dog has mobility problems and you wish to travel on public transport avoiding steps/gaps as much as possible.

Getting around on public trasports with a dog: general rules

The conditions for animal carriage on public transports in London are set out at Section 16 of TfL’s (Transport for London) Conditions of Carriage (also copied at the bottom of this post).

According to TfL’s conditions, dogs can travel on public transport for free, while kept on a lead on in a container. No muzzle is required, however staff can refuse access if there is a good reason to do so, for example if your dog looks dangerous.

The rule is that, unless you fall under the guide dog exception, you should opt for stairs or lifts rather than escalators, and where no alternative to moving escalators is available you shall:

  • carry your dog; or
  • ask a member of staff to stop the escalator and let you pass, subject to condition that the station is not busy.

If you are worried that you cannot carry your dog nor rely on TfL staff’s help because you are travelling through busy stations or simply because it is not always possible to find a member of staff available when you bump into an escalator during your travel, the next paragraph is for you.

But first…enjoy my video about Argo-the-Londog’s escalator ride!

Avoiding escalators with a large dog

It is great to watch what a great synchrony my husband and Argo have developed… Argo exactly knows when to jump and “perch” on my husband’s shoulder to be carried up or down the escalator and he seems to enjoy the ride, too.

Things work differently when my furry companion and I are travelling alone: I rather have to plan our route assessing which tube stations have a staircase or lift alternative to escalators, because I feel over 30 kilos of dog is a bit too much for my back’s sake!

Unfortunately Citymapper, my favourite mobility app, at the moment does not offer any accessibility option in planning your journey. However not everything is lost.

It is true that no escalators-free tube guides are available on TfL’s website, however to plan your stress (and escalator) free journey with your dog, all you have to do is accessing TfL’s Plan a journey tool, click on Edit Preferences and select “Use stairs, not escalators” in the access options box (in case you prefer it, you can also choose to tailor your journey for step-free platform only or full-step free access). Once you have typed in your start and arrival, click “plan your journey” at the bottom, and there you go! Your perfect escalator-free travel is served.

dog tube

Avoiding steps for dogs with mobility problems

Recently I saw a lady with a dog on a cart. Of course if you have a small dog like a corgi it might not be an issue for you to carry it in case you encounter some stairs/steps. But what if you have a German Shepherd with dysplasia or another large-breed dog with mobility issues due to arthritis, ligament injuries, or similar?

There is some good news. You can still use TfL’s Plan a journey tool, click on Edit preferences and select “Step-free to platform only” or “Full-step free access” in the access options box.

You can also download TfL’s accessibility guides, in particular the Step-free tube guide (downloadable here), and/or the Avoiding stairs tube guide (downloadable here).


TfL’s Conditions of Carriage (current version dated 20 May 2016)

(Section 16 – Animals)

“16.1 You can bring an assistance dog with you without charge. You can also bring with you without charge any other dog or inoffensive animal, unless there is a good reason for us to refuse it (such as if the animal seems dangerous). You must keep it under control on a lead or in a suitable container, and must not allow it on a seat. Staff are not allowed to take charge of any animal.
16.2 If you bring an animal with you, for safety reasons you must carry it through automatic ticket gates. If you have an assistance dog, at stations where there is no wide automatic gate, you must ask a member of staff to open the manual gate to allow you to enter or leave a station.
16.3 If you bring an animal with you, you must use a staircase or lift where provided. If there is no staircase or lift and you need to use a moving escalator, you must carry your animal unless you have an assistance dog that has been trained to walk on moving escalators. If your animal is too large to carry, a member of staff will stop the escalator to allow it to travel on it when it is safe to do so (generally outside the rush hours and when the station is not busy).”

© 2016 The Londog. All rights reserved.

6 thoughts on “How to travel with a large dog on London tube (avoiding escalators)”

  1. I am travelling with my Labrador on Saturday from Folkestone to Muswell Hill. i know he will be fine on the HS1 to St Pancras but i need to know if there are lifts there to the tube as i cannot easily lift him on the escalator. if i try to lift him i think he will get scared and jump off. so i am looking for a way to get him to Muswell Hill from St Pancras. can you help please?
    kind regards
    Sarah Thurstan

    1. Dear Sarah, many thanks for your enquiry. Using Tfl’s ‘plan my journey’ tool and selecting “use stairs not escalators” the route suggested for this Saturday is this one (38 minutes):
      4 mins walking
      Walk to London King’s Cross Rail Station
      5 mins national-rail
      Great Northern to Finsbury Park Rail Station
      5 mins walking
      Walk to Finsbury Park Station
      21 mins bus
      W7 bus to Grosvenor Gardens
      3 mins walking
      Walk to 36 Muswell Hill
      If you do the same search on Tfl’s website you will find be able to view more details and set the exact time you wish to leave/arrive as well as view maps showing walking routes, bus stop locations etc.
      I hope this is of help.
      Have a nice trip!X
      Cristina

  2. Good morning, I am travelling with my big labrador from London Bridge station to Paddington station and she is too heavy to be lifted. Any suggestions or help please?
    Kind regards,
    Peter Vant.

    1. Dear Peter, many thanks for your message. The best solution in order to take into account closures etc. is to check on the day with the TFL journey planner by selecting “use stairs, not escalators” in the preferences, however from a quick search now it appears that Jubilee Line to Baker Street and then Bakerloo Line to Paddington should be an escalator free alternative. Please note that sometimes stairs are a bit hidden and you have to look for them.
      I hope this is of help, good luck for your journey!
      Best wishes, Cristina

  3. Hi

    We are travelling to London Waterloo then on to Finchley Central this weekend with our medium size dog who loves the train and I’m sure will be fine on the tube but we’ll struggle with escalators. Then we’re travelling from Finchley Central back to Piccadilly Circus but can walk from Waterloo. Any advice?

    Many thanks.

    Jo

    1. Hi Jo,
      Many thanks for your message. Yes, sure, as mentioned in the post above you can refer to this TfL tool: https://tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey/?&date=20171111&timeIs=departing&time=1300#more-options and in the preferences select “use stairs, not escalators”. By doing this you will be able to set the time you will be travelling so that the planner will also take into account any tube closures, delays, etc.
      From a quick look it seems that you will have to take the Jubilee line Waterloo-Green Park, Victoria line to Euston and Northern line to Finchley Central, but I recommend checking with the TfL planner closer to your travelling time.
      Have a lovely trip!
      Cristina

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