Back in March, I attended a public transport forum called Transport for All, at Parliament House after speaking in late 2012 with the shadow transport minister, Penny Sharpe (NSW Labor) in which the forum talked and had general discussion regarding the lack of transport facilities and accessibility not only on the CityRail/CountryLink rail services, but the various ferry, bus and taxi operators and the issues which are having a profound affect on anyone with a disability trying to utelise the somewhat ok public service systems we have.
I have to say that whilst the discussion where productive and some pretty fantastic solutions were suggested, that the issues will still remain. Don't get me wrong, Penny Sharpe and her Labor colleague/Party have vowed to improve services for people with disabilities, but the current NSW Liberal Government seem to be hell bent on sticking to a disability action plan that had no or absolutely little consultation with community.
Yet to them this is all part of their fixing the trains, which honestly, If you ask me, isn't being fixed at all. Why? well it all comes down to $$$ and whether or not politicians of the current government really want to shake up services that could lead to strike action and voter dis-satisfaction that could see their seat gone to the other party. to me, that is just sad policy.
The old saying 'build it and they shall come and be happy' no longer works because its more than just about building some lifts and revamping or refurshing and completely rebuilding a station to make it accessible.
No there is a lot more that come down to it, such as staff training, trains becoming more wheelchair accessible, signage much more clearer and somewhat cleaned up so there isn't as many what I cann information overload, which only leads to confusion and frustration.
Now I hear you say that it all does cost $$$ and that money is better spent elsewhere, and whilst I may agree slightly, public transport for people with disabilities is an essential service because they can't drive and need to either go to work or go to hospital or various health specialist appointments.
What is also needed is campaigns advising fellow commuters about people with disabilities and to give up their seat for those fellow passengers that need them, or to stand clear of ramps that station staff or guards place down so someone in a wheelchair or scooter can get on and off a train safely without causing harm to staff, fellow commuters and themselves.
We also need clearer audio announcements on older trains regardless of costs, as well as continuing the refurbishment program of that Tangrara fleet to remove roles that are in the way of wheelchairs and scooter. Also tactile tiles need to placed at all stations, more covered awning areas and lighting.
There is also a need for the roll out and more accessible toilet facilities that ustelise MLAK or Master Lock Access Key system. Also a much more faster and accessible application prcoess for people requiring the MLAK Key. I mean I got mine through a staff member at one of my regular stations because they said I really do need one, yet I have applied for one numerous times but nothing, not one thing stating if I was successful or not.
Staff training and more clearer signs and audio announcements are required now and whilst some announcements have become better in the last month on my travels on the train, there is room for improvement.
Whilst I know most of these suggestions can't be fixed immediately, they can be fixed over time to help drag the cost out to a more reasonable amount as well as give more time for the issues to be fixed lrogressively without delays (or at least as many delays).
The only thing I now really waiting for the the damned Opal Card to come to the western line, now that should be something to really look forward to and help streamline one part of my travel requirements to say the least, but that too alas seems like it will never come if not be further and further away for the roll out to occur!
Just to also show you an insight to what is a daily occurrence not only for me, but for fellow disabled commuters on Sydney trains, the ABC followed me for a day and this video (kindly uploaded by Penny Sharpe) gives you brief if not somewhat eye opening experience of what it is like to have a disability and travel on public transport.
You can view the ABC News NSW video by clicking here.
You can also view a copy of my video talking about the issues at the Transport for All forum on March 15th at NSW Parliament house by clicking here.