By Allison Hore
Despite federal government legislation requiring all modern train stations across the states to be wheelchair accessible within the next three years, Sydney’s network is far behind. And disability advocates say this is making wheelchair users lose trust in the system.
Of the 307 stations in the Sydney Trains network, just 169 stations are advertised as wheelchair accessible. This means that 138 stations (45% of the network) do not have wheelchair accessibility.
Within the suburban network, Sydney’s Inner West is especially inaccessible, with Redfern, Macdonaldtown, Stanmore, Petersham, Lewisham, St Peters, Dulwich Hill, Hurlstone Park and Canterbury stations all with limited or no wheelchair accessibility.
Samantha French, Senior Policy Advisor at People With Disability Australia, says that this lack of accessibility often makes it difficult for people with mobility issues to participate in their communities.
“Transport is critical for people with disabilities to access and participate in their community, including travelling to work, school, medical appointments, sport and so on.”
Addressing the issue of transport inaccessibility, Transport for NSW has put in place a Disability Inclusion Action Plan for 2018 to 2022. This action plan includes several projects to upgrade train stations, ferry wharves and interchanges.
Last year Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that a further $133 million would be allocated to the Transport Access Program.
“We are committed to making public transport accessible for customers with a disability, less mobile customers or customers using a pram and that is why this Budget includes funding to upgrade accessibility to at least 11 more stations across the State,” Ms Berejiklian said in a press release mid last year.
This means that 31% of suburban stations and 45% of intercity stations will remain inaccessible.
However, in December Ms Berejiklian admitted that it would take “years” before all of Sydney’s train stations were accessible. For wheelchair users and disability advocates this is not good enough.
“Accessibility and upgrades need to be a much higher priority across the country and to ensure the whole journey is accessible for people with a disability,” says Ms French.
Discussions about improving the accessibility at Redfern Station in particular have been ongoing for decades.
In 2012, Lord Mayor Clover Moore submitted a petition to the NSW Parliament that was signed by more than 10,000 people calling for upgrades to Redfern station.
“Despite the station’s significance, there are no lifts to its platform, making access difficult, if not impossible, for people with disabilities, for older people, for parents of young children, for pregnant women and for people who are less mobile due to illness or injury,” she wrote on the petition.
Currently only platforms 6 and 7 have wheelchair accessibility after a lift was installed in 2015. Redfern commuters using a wheelchair must change trains at an accessible station, making the trip much more complex.
This lack of accessibility at Redfern station will become a particularly pressing issue in 2020 with an estimated 10,000 Commonwealth Bank employees set to begin work at the Australian Technology Park that year.