Trains, Pains & Autonomy

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It was 5:35pm in the middle of evening rush hour on a Wednesday afternoon at Erskineville train station in Sydney.

As this inner west area is a popular Sydney commuter location, the number of people that alight at the stop is high, and so I exited the train along with at least 50 other individuals. Among hoards of commuters were three different mothers, each pushing a stroller with a young child in it.

For those of you unfamiliar with Erskineville station, it is below street level and has no ramp or lift access down to the platforms, only a series of steep concrete stairs.

Mother number one was accompanied by her partner, who together carried the child and their buggy up the stairs.

Mother number two took her very young baby out of the pram, collapsed it down and asked a passerby if they would mind carrying it up for her while she carried the child.

Mother number three however was at the back of the mass of commuters and had, what I later learned was, a sick child in the stroller who was fast asleep. I was the only person left on the platform when she reached the stairs. I offered my assistance, and together we carefully negotiated the sleeping child and the buggy up the stairs.

She informed me that she had followed a very convoluted procedure of informing the station at which she boarded the train of her need to alight at Erskineville and was told that a member of Sydney trains would be present to assist her when she disembarked. It turned out that the member of staff on duty at Erskineville had hurt their back and so couldn’t help her out. So if I or someone else hadn’t offered her help, she would have been stuck on the platform indefinitely.

This struck me as very poor from such a global powerhouse of a city as Sydney is, that this lack of accessibility was present on what has to be one of the World’s busiest train networks.

Not only are parents being forced to ask complete strangers for assistance with their belongings and young children at this inaccessible station, but that wheelchair users and elderly individuals are being prevented from using the transport network via this station at all!

This got me thinking, if a hugely popular station like Erskineville is so inaccessible, what other train stations in Sydney are not accessible to the disabled, elderly and other individuals with mobility requirements?

I therefore did some research. Well, quite a lot of research actually!

How inaccessible are Sydney train stations for those with mobility requirements?

The short answer: Very.

I urge you to read my full research piece for all the details:

To give you an idea of how bad the situation is, I created the following animated GIF image showing what the Sydney train network looks like if you remove all of the stations that are not accessible for those with additional mobility needs:

Sydney Trains Network - GIZ showing stations with and without easy access

As you can see, 45% of Sydney train stations offer no means of accessibility other than stairs, meaning nearly half of all stations throughout the city can not be used by wheelchair users, the elderly or those with additional mobility requirements. This equates to nearly 45,000 individuals EACH DAY that may wish to use Sydney rail public transport, but are unable to.

Not cool, Sydney. Not cool.