V/Line accessibility comes under fire

Under scrutiny: Concerns have been raised about accessibility challenges on the Seymour-Shepparton line. Photo by Ray Sizer

The accessibility of trains travelling on the Seymour-Shepparton line has been marked down by the Victorian Opposition and the Rights Information and Advocacy Centre (RIAC).

Karryn Goode, chief executive officer of the Shepparton-based RIAC, told The Telegraph the state government had neglected addressing accessibility challenges on Victorian public transport.

“The government has a disability plan and they need to now commit to it,” Ms Goode said.

“Having accessible transport (for people with disability) means they can either go to work and return home in a safe way, or it means they can go about their daily lives and be able to contribute to society.”

Ms Goode also identified what she saw as an unequal approach in improving public transport for people with disability in regional areas.

“Your key Labor seats seem to be a priority,” she said.

“If you look at anywhere out (of Melbourne) — Seymour or Shepparton, that line definitely never gets that upgrade.”

In the past month, Ms Goode was made aware of a situation where an advocate was stranded with her scooter at Shepparton’s station for three hours owing to the absence of an accessible train carriage.

The woman, who had travelled from Melbourne, was forced to wait for the booked out accessible V/Line taxi to arrive from Bendigo to make the journey home.

Shadow Transport Minister and State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan also demanded more action from the government.

“We’ve heard too many stories of people being forced to travel in the cargo carriage or be prevented from travelling on V/Line altogether because accessible carriages were unexpectedly dropped from a service,” Ms Ryan said.

“It’s humiliating, it’s denigrating and it should not be accepted by the Andrews Government.

“Accessible public transport is desperately needed in country Victoria and to exclude people with a disability from catching the train is excluding Victorians from opportunity.”

If elected in November, the Victorian Opposition has committed to auditing the V/Line fleet and ensuring “that every piece of new rolling stock that’s ordered meets disability requirements”.

A Victorian Government spokesperson drew attention to the opposition’s past performance on public transport.

“The Victorian Liberals have a track record of cuts and closures when it comes to transport infrastructure. Only Labor delivers the investment Victorians need to create a more accessible network,” the spokesperson said.

The Victorian Government has advised individuals requiring assistance in Seymour could use the Travellers Aid program, which offers a free buggy to assist passengers moving around the station precinct and connect with other transport services.

The program also includes a companion/personal guide service to assist passengers travelling from the station to medical and other appointments in the district.