My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Public Transport. I would like to raise some serious and urgent concerns about railway stations being modernised in a way which is distressing and potentially harmful to members of our community.
Many people have contacted me, including senior citizens coming in to my office, to express their concern and distress that the Footscray railway station upgrade will have steep stairs and lifts, but no ramps. The old ramps at Footscray were rotting and needed replacing, and you will get no argument from me that they needed to be done. They were an absolute disgrace. But many people cannot walk up steep stairs, including senior citizens, people with prams and some people with disabilities. The station is opposite the Footscray market and people with shopping trolleys cannot use the stairs easily.
There will only be three lifts for the four platforms, including one lift shared between platforms 2 and 3. If the lift breaks down, people getting off the train will be stranded on the platform.
Unfortunately Mr Pakula is not in the chamber; if he were to ask the question, my answer would be yes, this did come up in the consultation period. It was one of the things people talked about, but unfortunately it would appear the government has not listened.
Each platform at Footscray has some street access, which is better than nothing in an emergency, but we cannot say the same for Laverton station. Two weeks ago I was at Laverton station when an elderly woman got off the train. The lift was broken and the only alternative was the steep stairs. She had to call on the help of some fellow passengers to carry her up the stairs. This was a demeaning and dangerous situation.
I cannot help thinking it is because many government members do not use public transport. I use public transport most days. We have a transport minister who had a go at catching public transport after he got the job. It seems he spent a few days learning how the other half live, but I suspect that now the cameras have gone away he is back to his chauffeured car.
Footscray is a transport hub, like North Melbourne which now has escalators for people changing platforms. But unlike North Melbourne station, Footscray station is in the western suburbs. It seems that as far as the government is concerned, people changing trains at Footscray can just take the stairs.
As members can sense, I am really angry about this because this is a station I use quite often, and I had hoped all these things would be fixed by this major upgrade. However, it would appear it will actually make it worse.
People with disabilities deserve equality and people in the west deserve a safe and efficient public transport system.
My request for the minister is to ensure that every railway platform may be accessed by Disability Discrimination Act compliant ramps, and to make escalators available at Footscray station. I would also urge him to avoid dismissing the question with an answer like, 'They're DDA-compliant lifts and that makes the station okay, and beyond that I don't care'.
REPLY FROM THE MINISTER FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORT, 5 MAY 2010
"The Victorian Government is progressively implementing the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (DSAPT). The Department of Transport (DOT) is working with operators to improve access for people with a disability to public transport services. "
"The Footscray Footbridge Project is part of the Victorian Government's Footscray Renewal program to revitalise Footscray. The new footbridge will be fully accessible and will comply with DSAPT by providing stair and lift access to each of the station platforms and across the rail tracks. The lifts will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide access to and from Hyde Street, Irving Street and McNab Avenue. Each lift has capacity for 30 people and incorporates transparent panels to provide good visibility into and out of the lifts. "
"Emergency procedure protocols have been developed in the event that a lift breaks down. This includes continuous monitoring and communication until assistance arrives, in the event that the lift is occupied. It is also noted that the new footbridge has seven stairways for access/egress. "
"Although unlikely, if all lifts were to fail, access to Footscray Railway Station is possible via Mc Nab Avenue. Ramps and escalators were considered by the design team but would have resulted in very lengthy ramps, and a much longer path of travel than the lifts provide. Escalators were also considered but found to be unsuitable for a number of reasons, including exposure to the weather which can result in frequent failure. "