Accessible stations? Moreland Leader: Commuter Anger Ramps Up

Accessibility of the elevated stations is a serious concern with the design of the new elevated stations for Moreland and Coburg.

Level Crossing Removal Project told Moreland City Councillors on July 8 that two elevators will be provided on the eastern platform at Coburg, and one on the western platform. Moreland would get only one lift per platform. No escalators would be provided. Most people will be expected to use stairs to access the elevated platforms.

This means in effect the new Moreland and Coburg elevated stations are being given 2nd class status, with likely poor or difficult to use disability access.

Some of the people in the Upfield Corridor Coalition travelled to Caufield-Dandenong line and inspected Carnegie, Murrumbeena and Hughesdale stations. The stations were configured with a central platform with access via two lifts and escalators. But even this level of redundancy is not being supplied at Moreland or Coburg stations.

It would appear for the Upfield line our community is being targetted for the very minimum in compliance with Disability Discrimination regulations, and a failure to futureproof this important community infrastructure.

Brunswick and Coburg demographic is both an aging population and young families. People from the older age groups often require mobility aids and use them when accessing public transport. Young families have strollers and prams and also require disability access. But there are a host of reasons people use lifts, including for health conditions, parents with small children, for carrying heavy luggage or carrying bags of shopping. Cyclists need to use the lift to access the train on occasion, to complete that ‘last mile’ of the journey at the other end.

There is already a mode share change with more people using public transport accentuated by a growing population. We need the facilities to access the station platforms for a growing population

In the future, there will be more people using the stations because of increased population and when we win the campaign for more trains on the line.

Redundancy needs to be built in to the modes of accessing station platforms. Lift do break down, or require maintenance. If there is only a single lift and this happens, it makes a whole range of people effectively stranded on the platform (or on the ground). With two lifts per platform there is a certain amount of redundancy ensuring accessibility. But also the lifts would need to have their own Uninterrupted power supply.

Moreland station is an unstaffed station. So what happens when a lift breaks down, potentially stranding a disabled person on the platform, with no way to get home, or perhaps to an appointment at John Fawkner Hospital?

Cr Sue Bolton asked this of the LXRP officers in the briefing: “Lifts also break down quite frequentl to provide access to the station platformsy. What are the safeguards for people in wheelchairs being stranded on the station late at night when the lift is broken down?”

“When I asked this question of the LXRP, they simply avoided an answer.” she said.

Lifts often breaking down at stations has been reported on by the media. This iproblem is compounded when previously existing ramps are removed and replaced by lifts.

In 2011 The Age reported that the lifts at the relatively new station at Laverton broke down between July 2010 and last April 105 times. Also a new $15 million footbridge at Footscray station, built in 2010 without ramps, had lifts that broke down 117 times over the same period.

In 2016 Western Metropolitan MLC Bernie Finn told state parliament the Watergardens station lift had broken down 43 times over the previous two years, and sometimes took a week to fix.

“For people to have to wait for up to a week for a broken down lift to be fixed seems to me to be quite insane. That is just ridiculous,” he said. “It is a major concern, particularly for people with disabilities and for elderly people.” reported the Star Weekly.

Platform lifts also need to be large enough to encompass an ambulance stretcher, as clearly demonstrated in this Age article when a man collapsed and died on Laverton Station in October 2010. According to the Age report, all Lifts must now fit a standard ambulance stretcher.

Some of the stations rebuilt in 2013-2014 had the triple whammy of lifts, staris and a DDA compliant ramp. This including Williams Landing Station, Mitcham and Springvale stations.

Oakleigh Labor MP Steve Dimopoulos successfully lobbied the transport minister for escalators to be included, as well as stairs and two lifts, in the station design on the Caufield-Dandenong line at new train stations at Carnegie, Murrumbeena, Hughesdale, Clayton and Noble Park.

But it seems corners are again being cut in providing only lifts, escalators and stairs at more recent station configurations, such as at Mernda. Read Marcus Wong 2017 article on Belt and braces – why Melbourne stations have lifts and ramps.

Where is the advocacy of Pascoe Vale Labor MP Lizzie Blandthorn for accessible station design like her Oakleigh Labor colleague Steve Dimopoulos? Now might be the time to send an email if you live in her electorate: lizzie.blandthorn@parliament.vic.gov.au

Here is the report by Josh Barnes published in the Moreland Leader, 22 July 2019 focussed on station platform accessibility:

Moreland Leader: accessibility of stations

Commuter anger ramps up
Escalators not included in designs for train stations
Josh Barnes

People with a disability, those with prams and commuters with bikes could bear the brunt after escalators and ramps were not included in designs for the rebuilt Coburg and Moreland train stations.

A briefing for Moreland Council, held by the Level Crossing Removal Project on July 8, revealed that stairs and lifts would be the only method for passengers to reach platforms at the new skyrail stations.

The LXRP confirmed with the Leader that ramps were impractical and the stations would be compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act. It is believed there will be two lifts for each platform at the stations but no escalators.

Final designs are still being completed.

Cr Sue Bolton said that councillors were told in the briefing that escalators weren’t included because they can break down too often.

“What plan B will there be if the lifts are out of action?” she said.

“These lifts will be overcrowded and there will be less accessibility for people who need that lift.”

Disabled Motorists Australia president Emilio Savle said two lifts per platform with an uninterrupted power supply would be acceptable, as long as amenities were thoughtfully added.

“I would like to see a bit more effort and energy put into boarding,” he said. “People with disabilities or parents with prams have suffered slips, trips and falls just by the mismatch of the level between the platform and train.”

Community group No Sky Rail Upfield Line treasurer Vanessa Birch blamed a tight budget for the accessibility snub.

“This is unacceptable cost cutting. Not only are we getting elevated rail along a heritage precinct, but we seem to be getting the worst, cheap version of it,” she said.

“We worry about accessibility for the disabled and elderly commuters. If the lifts break down there will be no way for people with mobility issues to access the train.

“Mass evacuation via crowded stairwells could be really dangerous and limit access for emergency workers.”

The LXRP is consulting the community on open space before updating a planning scheme.

An online survey is open to the public until August 2.

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