Platform 9 3/4 accessible…or not?

This post was originally published on 9th August 2012

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Tonight showed me how much CityRail sucks at making sure every passenger is included when making announcements regarding change of trains, platforms, delays, etc.

I hopped on the 8.50PM Bondi Junction train at Coniston, being under the impression that the train would take me all the way to Central. However, the train stopped at Wollongong…for a little longer than usual. I got a bit concerned and decided to stick my head out of the doors to see what was going on. I saw people getting off the train, and then I heard the PA fire up to life, sprouting some bullshit I couldn’t understand, albeit wearing a hearing aid. It was all mumble jumble to me. So, I decided to take the risk by getting off the train and I spotted a CityRail staff walking up the platform, so I went up to him and I typed “When’s the next train to Sydney?” on my iPhone. He said that the train currently at the platform wasn’t the Sydney train and that I would have to wait at least 5 minutes for the next train. Well dude, thanks for that, but surely it would have been easier if some kind of announcement was typed onto the caption thing in the carriages. But they weren’t working…not so much of a surprise for CityRail, is it??

Now, I’ve just had a look at CityRail’s accessible services page online…yet they still fail at it.

Accessible audio and visual service information – how about ensuring ALL announcements are VISUALLY accessible?? If the 10.45am Penrith train is delayed, a visual announcement on the electronic screen thingy at Parramatta station would be really NICE. Beyond NICE, considering a large number of deaf passengers either live or work in Parramatta. Imagine that, it would have saved me SO much time rather than running around like a chicken with its head chopped off, desperately trying not to be late for uni!!

On the new CityRail trains, they have audio and visual destination information – it’s great knowing the next station coming up so you don’t miss your stop. But what about when the train will be diverted to another platform? Or skipping your stop? Or there’s been an accident and you’ll be majorly late for your hot date? Now, visual announcements like those would be beyond awesome, especially avoiding the awkwardness of having to ask the passenger next to you to find out what was going on.

Graeme Innes (Human Rights Commissioner who is legally blind) has made numerous complaints (thanks Siobhan for the link!) about CityRail failing to make their announcements accessible, yet they still have done nothing. Still, he is making himself heard…and I am doing the same. Now, if you are reading this and have a disability – be it blindness, deafness, etc – and you are frustrated with public transport in your city, then make yourself HEARD.

I reckon CityRail should learn something from Queensland Rail – their train announcements are accessible for both stations and trains. I remember one afternoon in Brisbane, I was waiting for a Beenleigh train at Roma Street and then I decided to look at the visual train announcement screen and saw that the platform number had changed, and at the bottom of the screen, it was advising passengers to go to the other platform so they don’t miss their train. I’ve also noticed the announcement screen thingies on their trains advising passengers where to get off if they want to catch a train to another line, and if there are any changes to the train or any delays, it’s immediately up on the screens. CityRail, why cannot you do the same?!

What’s even more amazing about Queensland Rail – Call (07) 3606 5555 or SMS the Queensland Rail Passenger Hotline on 0428 774 636. A Queensland Rail Passenger Service Officer will respond promptly to your detailed request for train and platform assistance, station accessibility or timetable information. The text messaging service provides an alternative means of communicating with Queensland Rail and may be particularly useful for people who are deaf or hearing impaired. CityRail should do this as well – especially for those who are waiting for a train at an unstaffed station.

I was invited to a “Accessible Transport Advisory Committee” meeting for next Thursday – tonight’s experience has inspired me to make myself and the rest of the Deaf community of NSW heard. We should demand CityRail to introduce real-time visual announcements on ALL of their trains (well, not their old ones, but their new ones). Here’s hoping I can make a difference next week…

I think I will stop here… I need to get to sleep!

Yours in accessible public transport announcements,

S x

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