Unanderra train station departing without the disabled

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 Image source: Andrew Jackson

Unanderra train station is a major Illawarra train station, allowing individuals in the surrounding suburbs of Wollongong to travel into Wollongong or Sydney. As a society we are urged to utilise the public transport system as not only does it help lower congestion within the city it also decreases our carbon foot print. Though how can we utilise our public transport system when our local train station does not provide adequate disabled access?

Unanderra train station is only accessible by multiple stair cases, with there being thirty six stairs from the station to the top of the overpass alone, with then more stairs scaling down to the street. With no ramp or lift access this severely limits many incapacitated individuals, as well as those with Prams and luggage. Leading to these individuals struggling as displayed in the video below, which gained national attention, or these individuals are forced to take other transport to Dapto train station or Wollongong train station.

Due to the national attention this video above has received, the implementation of a lift at Unanderra train station has now become a New South Wales State Election  (which will be held on March 28th) issue. According to the ABC the Liberal Party is yet to commit to the upgrade whilst the Australian Labor Party (ALP) has pledged $25 Million to the project if elected.  The ALP had formally promised this upgrade with Wollongong Member Noreen Hay stating it was included in the 2009 budget.

The 2009-2010 budget papers included; Unanderra Station upgrade- including easy access with a total estimated cost $11 400. These budget papers do not clearly define what easy access included, though the 2010 budget papers provided a more narrowed down description of their planned Unanderra Station upgrade. The 2010-2011 budget papers included Unanderra Station upgrade – including lifts, which was estimated at $12 511, however, the 2011-2012 budget papers did not include any upgrades to the station.

Viewing these figures it is interesting that the parties now feel the need to pledge $25 million to the upgrade when previously their budgets were only estimating $11 000 -$12 000. It seems there was limited research into the project and once they discovered it would cost more than their estimated amounts they disregarded the project, also clearly evident by the photo above which was erected near the station in 2010. Instead they upgraded the station in 2013 with improving the station platform, reinstating CCTV, lighting, draining and maintenance to the pedestrian footbridge.  There was also an extensive upgrade to the surrounding station Dapto (upgrades made to this station can be seen here), a station that in comparison to Unanderra was not in need of an upgrade.

Accessibility for all individuals should be a main priority for any public transport infrastructure upgrades and yet still the current NSW Government cannot commit to ensuring disabled access to Unanderra station. This is allowing our public transport system to discriminate against individuals who do not have the capacity to walk up multiple stair cases.

Simply allowing our trains to leave these individuals behind.

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