transport disability | February 11, 2016

National MPs share human face of train debacle and call for better travel options for people with a disability

Thursday 11 February

National MPs have slammed the Andrews Government for the V/Line crisis highlighting the human face behind the fiasco occurring on the Gippsland line.

Both Member for Eastern Victoria Region Melina Bath and Member for Morwell Russell Northe questioned the Minster for Public Transport in parliament this week over concerns that residents with disabilities were not being adequately catered for during the V/Line timetable disruptions.

Ms Bath highlighted the case of Mirboo North resident Taylor Connelly, a regular V/Line commuter with an acquired brain injury who had been significantly affected by the train debacle and unable to attend her medical appointments in Melbourne. 

“She suffers from stress and anxiety, and she says she cannot actually cope with sitting inside a replacement bus because she cannot tolerate confined spaces,” Ms Bath told the parliament. 

Ms Bath said Ms Connelly was “disappointed and frustrated” and had written to her asking: ‘I know that we are in the minority but does the Labor government not spare a thought for the disabled trying to use bus services?’ 

The Nationals MP also told the story of Anita Bennell, a Sale mother of twin adult girls with disabilities struggling to attend medical appointments in Melbourne. 

“Anita told me the staff at the Traralgon railway station have been very supportive and helpful but cannot guarantee that she and the girls, who are both in wheelchairs, will have access to appropriate low-floor coach services that can accommodate the girls,” Ms Bath said. 

“The girls often delight in travelling on the train; it is a feature and a highlight of their rare visits to Melbourne and the disruption to the timetable means Anita has to do extensive planning with no guarantees that the travel will come off smoothly.” 

Mr Northe told the parliament about the case of a physically disabled woman and her mother Gillian Young, who attend regular medical appointments in Melbourne by train.

“With only five of Traralgon's usual 18 services running, recently Ms Young's daughter could not get a seat on the train and the steep steps and cramped seats of replacement coaches are unsuitable for her,” Mr Northe told the parliament. 

“This forced Ms Young to drive four hours for her daughter's appointment.” 

Mr Northe asked Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan to explain what arrangements would be put in place for V/Line passengers like Ms Young’s daughter, so people with disabilities could retain their independence. 

He said there had been little information provided by the Government as to what the issues were, when they would be resolved and how people such as Gillian would be supported. 

“If this continues for months and months, there are many, many Gillians out there who will need support from the government to be able to get to their destinations for a whole host of reasons - many of them are medical,” he said.

Mr Northe also relayed stories of locals who travel to Melbourne for work who had experienced further delays and breakdowns in service.

“This is having an impact on these people’s daily lives as they are effectively spending three to four hours more a day trying to commute to work,” he said.

“Over the past few weeks V/Line provided travellers on the Gippsland line with free travel, this has now ended with the expectation that commuters pay full fares for a service that is taking them, in some cases, double the time to reach their location.”

Both National MPs have called on the Minister to immediately put in place arrangements for people who have a physical or mental disability so that all passengers can have access to safe and comfortable travel to Melbourne during this time of train service disruption.

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Photo Caption: Member for Eastern Victoria Region Melina Bath talks to Mirboo North resident Taylor Connelly with partner Leigh Tomisic about the hardship of train disruptions on those with a disability

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