Accessibility will be a major focus of day three of AusRAIL, inline with December 3 being the International Day of People with Disability.
A dedicated Accessibility stream will run throughout the day, with rail operators sharing their insights into how they are making their networks more accessible.
Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO Caroline Wilkie, said that although progress has been made, there is the need for further efforts to make the rail network accessible to all.
“The rail industry has worked extensively to make rail as accessible as possible for people with disability in recent years,” Wilkie said.
“While significant gains have been made, there remains work to do to keep improving through the replacement or retrofitting of ageing infrastructure and rollingstock.”
A recent report by the Victorian Auditor-General found that Victoria’s tram network was not meeting its legislated accessibility targets, with only 15 per cent of services combining a level-access stop with a low floor tram. A lack of low floor trams on some routes mean that some lines are not accessible at all.
As part of its recent announced order of 100 new accessible trams, the Victorian Department of Transport and operator Yarra Trams is working towards increasing accessibility on the network.
Wilkie said discussions at AusRAIL would look into reforms to the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport.
“The ARA is a strong supporter of these reforms, as is the wider industry, and it is important we ensure their swift progress to support the work of our operators and government agencies,” she said.
“This is a long term focus for the ARA and our members and we look forward to continuing to advance this issue today.”
With operators continuing to run services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and in some cases increasing frequency on key routes for essential workers, the importance of rail was highlighted more than ever.
“The importance of safe, convenient and accessible public transport has come to the fore this year and it is essential that people with disability also enjoy those benefits across the network,” said Wilkie.