Audit finds accessibility lacking on Melbourne tram network

The Victorian Auditor General has found that the Department of Transport and Yarra Trams are at risk of breaching disability legislation due to the lack of accessibility on Melbourne’s tram network.

In an audit of accessibility on the tram network, the Auditor General found that only 15 per cent of services were accessible, combining a level-access stop with a low floor tram.

While most routes have some level-access stops, with route 96 being the most accessible, a lack of low-floor trams on many routes mean that services on these routes are not accessible at all.

Under the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport Act (DSAPT), all stops must be accessible by December 31, 2022, and all trams must be disability compliant by 2032. This would require that 68 stops per month to be upgraded and 28-30 trams be built and delivered each year, nearly double the current capacity of E-class manufacture, which is 16 trams a year.

A Victorian Department of Transport spokesperson said that a Tram Spot Rollout Strategy was being worked on to address this gap and would be completed by mid-2021.

“We’re always working to improve accessibility on Melbourne’s tram network – and we’ve already started to deliver some of the key recommendations from the Auditor-General’s Accessibility of Tram Services report,” the spokesperson said.

“We are investing in new low-floor trams, building accessibility into the design of our Next Gen Trams and are delivering more level tram stops, as well as rolling out accessibility features in our PTV app and assistant animal relief – but we know there is more work to do.”

The Auditor General recommended that renewal work that is part of the current tram franchise agreement should be done concurrently with disability upgrades to maximise savings and minimise disruption.

Another issue identified by the Auditor General in meeting accessibility requirements was the lack or inconsistency of data on the network. Although data is collected on accessibility, not all requirements under the DSAPT are included, meaning that specific features that make a stop inaccessible cannot be shown. For trams, the Department of Transport and Yarra Trams have not reviewed tram compliance with DSAPT requirements.

The Department of Transport either partially accepted, accepted in principle or accepted the recommendations of the report.

“We’ll continue working closely with our operators, unions and disability groups to ensure we deliver an equitable experience for all Victorians who use our public transport network,” said the Department of Transport spokesperson.

Accessible transport council to guide Queensland projects

The Queensland state government has established a new Accessible Transport Advisory Council to give input on accessibility for transport projects around the state.

The Council would advocate on behalf of those with vision, hearing, physical, or cognitive impairments, as well as older people, parents, and youth justice groups. The Council will directly advise the Minister, the director-general of Transport and Main Roads, and the CEO of Queensland Rail.

Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey said the Council would assist the government in avoiding accessibility issues, such as the bungled design of the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR), which required the trains to be retrofitted to comply with disability legislation.

“The existing approach to accessibility on road and transport upgrades has been piecemeal, and this new independent body will provide frank and expert advice on how we can make our record $23 billion pipeline of road and transport projects accessible for all Queenslanders,” said Bailey.

“The establishment of the Queensland Accessible Transport Advisory Council (QATAC) will provide disability-sector representatives with an unprecedented opportunity for early and authentic consultation on all major transport projects.

In addition to the Council, the Queensland government is investing $500 million in accessibility upgrades for train stations in the state’s south east.

“As part of Queensland’s economic recovery plan, the Palaszczuk Government is investing an additional $136 million for accessibility upgrades at Bundamba, Burpengary, Banyo and Wooloowin train stations which will include full platform raising, setting a new standard for all future station upgrades to be delivered by Queensland Rail,” said Bailey.

Chairing the Council is former District Court judge Michael Forde, who was a commissioner on the NGR inquiry. An expression of interest process for membership has now begun and will run until mid-November.

“This will be a template for all transport infrastructure, requiring the council be formally consulted before the finalisations of any plans. This will apply to all forms of transport,” said Forde.

Cross River Rail

Cross River Rail expanding inclusion in design and construction

The Cross River Rail project is incorporating local communities of suppliers and future passengers into its current design and construction programs.

The $5.4 billion project is contributing $4 million a day into to the local economy, partly through contracts with suppliers such as IDEC who will deliver the acoustic sheds at three major construction sites.

The sheds are in use at the Roma Street and Albert Street sites and a third is being installed at Woolloongabba.

IDEC CEO Glenn Gibson said that major projects such as CRR allow for business continuity.

“We are specialists in our field, and contracts like this one with CRR are vital for companies like ours to provide continuity and job security for our staff.”

The CRR contract provides work for 70 employees, including boilermakers, roof panel builders, riggers, and engineers and designers. Two apprentices are also working on the project.

The sheds are prefabricated by IDEC and then installed on site over 10 weeks. By using the sheds, CRR is able to work at night and during bad weather, while minimising dust and noise pollution in the surrounding area.

CRR is also involving the wider community in the design of the project. In one initiative, six stations that will undergo accessibility upgrades have been modelled to allow for those with blindness and low vision to give input on the stations’ designs.

The 3D model of the stations are being made with the assistance of Braille House, which provides. Braille products f or the vision impaired. Braille has been embossed on the tactile model for increased legibility.

So far, a model of the upgraded Fairfield station has been constructed, and Braille House general manager Sally Balwin said this would overcome issues that transport infrastructure has for those with a disability.

“We’re pleased to have worked with Cross River Rail on the Fairfield Station concept design tactile model. Train stations can be a challenge for people using a cane or a guide dog to navigate, and it can impact their ability to access public transport.”

Wendy Sara, production manager at Braille House has been working with the CRR team to construct the station models.

As a blind person, it’s important to be included in the consultation and to be given the opportunity to explore by touch the changes to be made to the upgraded station,” said Sara.

“The provision of access to the tactile model will help blind and low vision people feel confident in navigating the upgraded Fairfield station once completed.”

Level crossings to go and access improved on Armadale Line

The Western Australia government has unveiled a series of works for Perth’s Armadale Line to improve safety and increase access along the line through Perth’s south-eastern suburbs.

The WA government and federal government will jointly fund the removal of up to six level crossings.

The $415 million plan to remove three level crossings at Oats Street, Mint Street, and Welshpool Road, along with assessment of three level crossings at William, Wharf, and Hamilton streets has been submitted to Infrastructure Australia.

Procurement will begin on the Metronet project before the end of 2020, said WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

“Submitting the business case to Infrastructure Australia is the next step forward to removing these boom gates,” she said.

The rail line will be raised over the road at the level crossings for up to 2.8 kilometres. The elevated rail option will enable better connections between adjoining communities, safer roads, and less noise.

As part of the WA Recovery Plan, train stations on the Armadale line will be upgraded to improve disability access.

$8 million will be spent on Cannington, Gosnells, and Kelmscott stations to bring them up to the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (DSAPT).

These improvements will include better pedestrian access, the relocation of passenger information and ticket vending machines, and better lighting, signage, and CCTV coverage.

At Gosnells station, upgrades to the parking area will be part of the works, while at Kelmscott Station the bus stand infrastructure will also be improved.

“Public transport is for everyone, and we have a responsibility to ensure that anybody using our stations can do so as safely as possible, regardless of their mobility levels,” said Saffioti.

“These upgrades will mean all patrons using Cannington, Gosnells and Kelmscott stations will be able to use Transperth train services with dignity and independence.”

The project is part of the WA Recovery Plan, which has identified projects that can begin immediately and inject activity into the WA economy.

Unanderra to receive accessibility upgrades

Plans for upgrades to Unanderra Station in Wollongong have been released for community consultation.

The accessibility upgrades are part of the NSW government’s Transport Access Program, which includes 470 projects completed or underway in NSW with $2 billion in funding.

“The concept design for the accessibility upgrade at Unanderra Station includes plans for three new lifts to connect the east and west sections of Berkeley Road and the station platform to the existing footbridge,” said a Transport for NSW (TfNSW) spokesperson.

“There are also plans to upgrade the Kiss and Ride on Berkeley Road with seating and improved access paths, as well as widening the existing footpath on Berkeley Road west.”

Feedback will be garnered through online forms, via phone, email, or by mail.

“It’s important for the community to have their say on this upgrade, even in these times of social distancing, so the engagement will have an online focus,” said a TfNSW spokesperson.

The feedback along with more in-depth community consultation will inform detailed design work of the station upgrades.

The design will enable access to the station for those with a disability, limited mobility, carers/parents with prams, and people travelling with luggage.

Unanderra station is on the South Coast line, which has seen patronage jump and increased demand for freight services and will be the focus of the More Trains, More Services upgrades.

Rooty Hill station upgrades increase accessibility

Station upgrades have been completed at Rooty Hill Station, in Western Sydney.

The station, located on the Main Western Line, now has four new lifts to make each platform accessible. Family accessible toilets have also been installed on each platform, said a transport for NSW spokesperson.

“The upgrade also includes a new pedestrian footbridge with new stairs to each platform, larger platform canopies for better weather protection and upgrades to CCTV and lighting to improve customer safety and security,” said the spokesperson.

In addition to the work on the station, a new commuter car park, with 750 car spaces, 16 accessible spaces, 10 motorcycle spaces, and 10 electric vehicle charging spaces, opened in early January.

Power for the vehicle charging ports will be locally sourced.

“The power requirements for these facilities are supplemented by sustainable features built into the car park design, including a rooftop solar system with 1140 solar panels. These also efficiently operate the car park lights and lift,’ said the TfNSW spokesperson.

Included in the upgrades are artworks produced by the local Aboriginal community, and pavers have been installed with the handprints of 450 school children from the local area.

The station’s heritage as the original terminus of the Western line’s extension to Blacktown, and its subsequent role in Sydney and NSW’s rail heritage is acknowledged in the station’s footbridge.

The upgrades to Rooty Hill station are part of TfNSW’s wider Transport Access Program, which is making stations more accessible around the state.

Three major contractors shortlisted for Sydney Metro upgrade

Sydney Metro has shortlisted three companies to supply customer access technology on the Bankstown line.

The shortlisted contractors will install mechanical gap fillers and platform screen doors as part of the Sydney Metro upgrade of the 10 stations between Marrickville and Bankstown.

The three shortlisted companies are Gilgen Door Systems AG, Hyundai Movex Co. Ltd, and Kyosan Electric Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

The next step of the procurement process will be to test the technology put forward by the three companies for Australian conditions.

Once the customer access technology is installed the stations will be fully accessible when metro rail services start in 2024.

All Sydney Metro stations will have platform screen doors which keep people and objects like prams away from the tracks, and also allow trains to get in and out of stations much faster. 

The new platforms will be level with the updated metro trains, not requiring passengers to step-up into the train.