Having just travelled around Japan by rail for three weeks with a medium-sized wheeled suitcase, I found the journey home from London City Airport to be one of the most difficult - it involved negotiating three long steep staircases and even though the TfL website lists Finsbury Park station as having step-free access, it turned out this only applies to the Tube and not National Rail platforms. It brought it home to me how impossible it must be to travel around London if you are disabled, and not simply dragging luggage as I was.
By contrast, Japan has lift access to every train platform above or below ground - though it may be at the far end of the platform. One transfer between trains I made involved taking six different lifts to get to my correct platform. The platform and train are usually on a level with each other, making it easy to board. For all that I don't remember seeing anyone in a wheelchair using the train while I was there.
Apart from thoughtful design it may be due to >27% of Japan’s population being 65+
I agree Maddy. I find it difficult lugging a suitcase down stairs and most stations do not have step-free access. If it's hard for someone like me who is fortunately well enough to attempt it I really feel for the elderly or disabled who would find it even more cumbersome
City Airport and Luton are the worst because you have lots of stairs at different stages of the journey, this is followed by Gatwick where you have stairs at Victoria and again at your station, then Stansted (stairs at Tottenham Hale) and Heathrow is the easiest with stairs only at the arrival station (in my case Turnpike Lane). I have traveled for years with a child in a buggy, toddler, and luggage so I almost know the exact number of steps everywhere :) My aunt who lost a leg in an accident has traveled the world. The only place she swore not to come back to was London because of all the stairs.
Victoria now has lifts between lines and from Vic Line ticket hall to National Rail station, admittedly with quite long walks between some lifts.
I think that the new footbridge going in at Tottehham Hale National Rail station will have lifts as well.