Jenny Leong MP delivers a Private Member's Statement on Newtown electorate train station accessibility in the NSW Legislative Assembly, 19 May 2022.
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (17:11): I also speak about trains and an issue of great concern in the Newtown electorate, which is public transport and train station accessibility. The ability to access our train network should be a basic right for every individual. It is a disgrace that in 2022 some stations in our electorate and throughout New South Wales remain inaccessible. People with disabilities, parents with prams, the elderly and anyone with mobility issues should not have to struggle to access public transport—facilities that are paid for by the public for the public good. It is outrageous that station accessibility is still an issue today. In 2002, 20 years ago, the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport were issued under division 2A of the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Those standards had goals that were well within the means of successive governments to achieve.
We are almost halfway through 2022, which is the year by which we are supposed to have 100 per cent compliance with the standards. But our train stations are nowhere near meeting the accessibility standards. That is a disgrace, the blame for which lies squarely on the shoulders of successive State governments that have failed to invest in our public transport system. It seems that we can pay billions of dollars to pollute motorways but are still unable to commit to upgrades to our train stations to make them 100 per cent accessible. Currently, in the Newtown electorate we have eight train stations: Newtown, Redfern, Stanmore, Erskineville, St Peters, Macdonaldtown, Petersham and Lewisham. Ensuring the accessibility of every one of those stations is a high priority for The Greens. For many years we have worked collaboratively with our community on that priority.
When I was first elected, in 2015, only one station was accessible in the electorate of Newtown, and that was Newtown station. Successive governments had ignored our community's public transport access needs, and seven years later I am pleased to report that we have seen a massive improvement. The completed upgrade of Petersham station means that it is now fully accessible, and upgrades to install lifts for the outdoor platforms are underway in Redfern, Erskineville and St Peters. Plans for lift upgrades have also been released for Stanmore. That is a significant improvement—from seven completely inaccessible stations to only two that will remain inaccessible.
Accessibility at Petersham station came about thanks to a strong community campaign. Hundreds signed petitions, and together we got stories into local papers and kept the pressure on the transport Minister every day in Parliament. Many local residents have expressed so much gratitude and appreciation, including Chris, who wrote:
As someone with a disability living in Petersham, the upgrading of Petersham station will open up my world and allow me to access the community more easily.
The same goes for the numerous parents and elderly residents who have contacted us about the steep steps at Stanmore and Erskineville that they have had to navigate. After much advocacy and community campaigning, it is so great to see that there has been a change. Similarly, years of campaigning by local community and stakeholder groups in Redfern including Lift Redfern, REDWatch and Reconnect Redfern has resulted in works being underway to finally make Redfern station accessible from platforms 1 to 10, with new lifts and a new concourse.
While those works are very welcome, sadly—in classic Liberal-Nationals Government style—the failure to consult adequately and listen to the community has meant that some local residents are very concerned about the design that is being delivered. Redfern will be almost accessible, because platforms 11 and 12—which are underground—have been forgotten. Apparently the escalators are acceptable to meet accessibility standards, which anyone in a wheelchair would agree is not an adequate solution.
I give a massive shout-out to the Friends of Erskineville, who have worked hard to see Erskineville station upgraded. We have finally seen the plans for a second station entrance with lifts connecting the new footbridge at Bridge Street with station platforms, as well as a new lift from the existing concourse onto platform 1. After much action from local residents, we are also seeing upgrades to St Peters station. Stanmore station finally has plans in place, with planning approval granted after years of community support and calls for an upgrade—and after years of seeing students carrying bikes up and down the stairs in Stanmore.
As I have outlined, there has finally been some action. I have been so pleased to work with our community to ensure that there has been a massive increase in the accessibility of our stations. However, we are committed and determined to work with the residents near Macdonaldtown and Lewisham to ensure that those communities have their calls for accessible stations heard.