Little Eveleigh Street, from where new disabled access to Redfern Station is proposed. Photo: Jack Carnegie

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By Katherine Rajwar

Transport NSW has proposed an accessibility upgrade at Redfern Station, changes long awaited by users, given that Redfern is the sixth busiest station in NSW. Redfern currently has disability access to one platform only.

The proposed development includes a new southern entrance to the station and lifts to platforms 1 to 10, to be connected via a footbridge.

However, some local residents worry that the plans are inadequate, a mere ‘Band-Aid solution’ to meet mandatory National Disability Standards by 2022.

Geoffrey Turnbull, co-spokesperson of REDWatch (Redfern, Eveleigh, Darlington and Waterloo Watch Group), said the station will still not be fully accessible as the underground platforms are absent from the proposal.

“We see that platforms 11 and 12 are excluded from the [upgrade] plans. These are considered the second most dangerous [for people with mobility issues] in the network after Town Hall Station.

“They don’t have the necessary safeguards in place. There’s no second entrance or exit, so the platforms can’t be evacuated in enough time to meet the Emergency Management Regulations, and the underground station also fills up with smoke.”

The iconic building of the Big Issue magazine office on Little Eveleigh Street, an independent publication that provides an income to homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged, is the proposed site for the new entrance to the station.

Jack Carnegie, an occupant of Little Eveleigh Street for over twenty years, believes that the plans will have devastating repercussions on the street, as its narrow structure will not accommodate the expected influx of commuters who will overcrowd the road, affecting parking, noise levels and the bicycle lane. Carnegie believes that the local community has been left out of the conversation on the new upgrades.

“They’re not giving the street cultural value, they’re treating it as expendable. The attitude they have is, ‘The Big Issue, who cares about that?’”, Carnegie said. “Rule one of community engagement, talk to the people who live there,” he added.

“They’ve considered their key stakeholders, The University of Sydney, Carriageworks and the Commonwealth Bank… They’ve been talking to them but they haven’t been talking to local residents. They just don’t regard the local community as key stakeholders.

“We want wheelchair access and disabled access for Redfern station – what we don’t want is to lose our street!”

Carnegie stresses that the push for accessibility to the station is needed, but not at the comprise of his home.

“I live there,” he says pointing to a blueprint of the proposed diagram, “and now I’m going to have a railway station across the way from my home.

“Transport NSW suggested to me that I sell my house for commercial property. I told them it was an outrageous suggestion and that I had no intentions of doing that.”

At a recent REDWatch meeting, Turnbull spoke with Redfern residents who raised concerns about the upgrades.

“People are concerned about how that exit [Little Eveleigh Street] is going to work in relation to the existing use of that street, in terms of the bike lane, motor vehicle and pedestrian use,” he said. “Our hope is that if there is enough community pressure they’ll have to reconsider.”

If the current plans are approved, the $100 million upgrades will begin construction in mid 2020 and are expected to be completed in approximately 15 months.

An alternative proposal has been suggested that would include building the new concourse to Wilson Street. Activists hope that by raising public opinion it may prompt a change to the proposed upgrades, although Transport NSW has yet to reconsider.