Accessibility at our train stations is a serious risk to safety for those who struggle up and down the stairs, and limits the full participation in society of all members of our community. Read our speech calling on the Government to ensure all train stations in the Newtown electorate are made accessible.
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) [6.42 p.m.]: I draw the attention of this House to the serious issue of train station accessibility. Not only is the issue of accessibility at our train stations a serious risk to safety for those who struggle up and down the stairs; it also limits the full participation in society of all members of our community. It is a clear concern that a number of people have trouble accessing the platforms because of the absence of ramps and lifts at seven of the nine stations in the electorate of Newtown. It is worth noting that this situation has not only been an issue for the current Liberal Government; unfortunately, after 16 years of a Labor Government, only one station in the area now covered by the electorate of Newtown was made fully accessible to people with mobility issues.
The New South Wales Government in today's budget announced $890 million over four years for the Transport Access Program, which will in part be for new lifts. Unfortunately, there is no mention that any of this money will be used in any way to improve access at stations in the electorate of Newtown. It is unclear whether the stations of Redfern, Macdonaldtown, Newtown, Stanmore, Petersham, Lewisham, Erskineville and St Peters will have any improvement to their accessibility in the commitment that has been made. Only two stations—Central and Newtown—are fully accessible by lifts.
It is true that the Government is planning on putting in one lift—that is, one lift—at Redfern station on platforms six and seven. It is a little unclear exactly how Eddie, the Big Issue vendor who struggles with access at Redfern station, is supposed to catch a train if he needs to catch a train from a platform other than six or seven, one that is not serviced by a lift. That one lift does not appear to help Eddie, who is wheelchair bound, nor does it seem to help any wheelchair-bound students at the University of Sydney or the surrounding areas who may wish to access Redfern station via a platform other than six or seven.
Let us look at the other stations in the electorate. Local resident Joanna recently expressed her concern to our office about Petersham station's steep steps that are exposed to the weather. They are very steep steps and I have witnessed many elderly people struggling down those steps at risk of falling because of the failure to deliver accessible station access within our community. Joanne told us that both of the station's entry points are deplorable, but on the Terminus Street side it is especially bad, where some 74 stairs need to be ascended and negotiated to enter the platform. Clearly this prevents a large number of people in our community from accessing what is supposed to be an accessible public transport system.
At Stanmore station steps are not the only problem in accessing the platform. For grandparents, parents and students to get from their homes to their public schools and back again each morning and afternoon, they need to negotiate the stairs to cross under the railway line with their prams, walking frames, school bags and sporting gear. It is clearly also a problem for cyclists who want to catch public transport and ride their bikes and who are consistently struggling with the steps at our stations. The same issue applies at Erskineville station where the steep steps are exposed to the weather and it is inaccessible for many in the community, and the same is also true for Macdonaldtown and Lewisham stations.
One mother who regularly struggles with our train system recently expressed despair to me. She said, "I might be sounding over the top but, seriously, when I am trying to navigate CityRail while pregnant and with my toddler, it makes it obvious that our train station and our train system were built by a privileged, able-bodied white man." She was seriously concerned by this situation and how she can negotiate our transport system. One only needs to watch people negotiate the stairs to understand what a challenge it is.
Today in the budget the Government announced the acceleration of infrastructure projects, including WestConnex. The Treasurer announced a "crack team" that will halve the time of planning to construction of the State's significant projects. Neither of these will benefit the community, nor are they in the community interest. Instead what we should be seeing is the fast-tracking of the Transport Access Program to make our stations accessible. This should be the Government's priority. I hope that the Government will listen to and heed the concerns of residents in this area about the Government's failure to deliver accessible stations for our community and do all it can to improve access at our local stations.