Almost two years ago Save Our Station Ballarat Inc (SOS Ballarat) approached the Disability Discrimination Legal Service regarding, what they claimed, was the Victorian government’s failure to address access for people with mobility challenges at the Ballarat railway station.
SOS stated that neither their $32m spend on the Ballarat Station Redevelopment, nor the $518m spend on upgrading the Melbourne to Ballarat rail line proposed anything to improve access in Ballarat.
SOS subsequently formed an alliance with Grampians disAbility Advocacy, who, through five individual complainants, formally took Public Transport Victoria and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources to VCAT. The Disability Discrimination Legal Service assisted throughout.
Debbie Verdon Exec Officer of Grampians Advocacy said they had made an application to VCAT Human Rights List a year ago, 31/5/2018.
Following the first compulsory mediation session at VCAT in January 2019, seven key access problems were identified, and the respondents were given until early-May to confirm the issues (through an access audit) and offer their responses to how and when they would address them.
The issues were:
1. Accessible connection between platforms
2. No accessible toilet on Platform 2 and doors to toilet and restaurant on Platform 1 are difficult to use
3. Restaurant layout is not accessible
4. Size and layout of toilet is not accessible
5. Lack of appropriate aides, lighting and signage for vision impairment
6. Level difference from platform to train
7. Shortage of accessible parking close to the station
Ms Verdon said their priority was the accessible transfer between platforms.
“We made that clear throughout proceedings but we were also invited to talk about our secondary concerns; so we do want to see all (7) concerns addressed,” she said.
“Quite a number of them the Department of Transport has identified a number could be rectified in 3-6 months. That is very pleasing to see that but of course the number one priority of having a lift to allow people to transfer between platforms is obviously quite a large project.
“All the new stations that are getting built along the line have lifts and overpasses because new stations have to be accessible but Ballarat is problematic; it has to be ticked off by Heritage Victoria.”
Ms Verdon added that what was surprising was that these matters weren’t attended to until they were raised by GdA.
“We are happy with the result. The lifts and the overpass need to be looked at by Heritage Victoria, a design has to be drawn up, an ideal location needs to be determined and then it needs to go to cabinet and the budget process,” Ms Verdon said.
“So there are still quite a few steps to go through.
“It’s a major piece of infrastructure, an enormous cost and we hear that message loud and clear but we believe that the Department of Transport is really keen to see this done, as well but they can’t allocate the money.”