Progress towards improving access
Transport for NSW has monitored the progress of commitments made in the previous plan through regular reporting. Since the previous Disability Action Plan was released in 2012, significant improvements have been made to infrastructure, information provision and customer service across the transport system.
The public transport network continues to be upgraded through the Transport Access Program and other infrastructure programs to improve accessibility and provide modern, secure and integrated transport services.
Announced in 2012, the Transport Access Program provided more than $770 million over four years to improve accessibility to transport facilities. On 23 June 2015, the NSW Government announced a significant boost to the program with a further $890 million to be invested over the following four years. A further $200 million was announced in 2017, taking the total commitment to $1 billion.
The Transport Access Program assessment process uses evidence-based criteria, including current and future patronage.
It takes into account the needs and demographics of customers who use the station. It also considers the location of important services, such as hospitals or schools and the accessibility of nearby transport interchanges.
Since the launch of the program, more than 450 projects are underway or have been completed. These include upgrades to train stations which provide lift access for the first time, new accessible toilets, kiss and ride zones and parking spaces for people with disability. Ferry wharves and bus interchanges are also being progressively upgraded to provide better access for customers with disability.
The NSW Government has identified the need to provide new trains, buses and ferries with increased accessibility features. The NSW Government has signed a $2.3 billion contract to build and maintain a New Intercity Fleet which will feature dedicated space for wheelchairs, accessible toilets, digital screens and announcements. The NSW Government has also invested in delivering 24 new eight-car trains as part of the Sydney Growth Trains project, along with replacement of the ageing regional fleet as part of the Regional Fleet Program.
All new buses acquired by the State Transit Authority feature a ‘kneeling’ suspension for level entry, and a flat no-step floor.
The ferry fleet is being progressively upgraded with the delivery of six new ferries for Sydney’s inner harbour. Transport for NSW will also deliver four new ferries to support the capacity of the fleet to service the Parramatta River.
Continuing improvements to information provision and customer service are being made. Accessibility apps are enabling people with disability to confidently use public transport.
Major new infrastructure projects are progressing with more consultation with people with disability than ever before, with a view to achieving the highest possible standards of accessibility. We are ensuring that new infrastructure such as Sydney Metro Northwest and the new CBD and South East Light Rail will be fully accessible by ensuring accessibility standards are met and by testing prototypes for accessibility.
Since 2012, improvements in accessibility can be shown across key indicators throughout the NSW public transport network and taxi services.
Eighty eight percent of the State Transit Authority fleet and 80.2 percent of the private operator fleet operating in metropolitan Sydney are low-floor wheelchair accessible. Of the private operator fleet, 50.5 percent operating in outer-metropolitan Sydney are low-floor wheelchair accessible.
Timetabled wheelchair accessible bus services operate on 72.3 percent of services on routes throughout Sydney and Newcastle. Wheelchair accessible buses operate on more than 95 percent of trips on the weekend.
Timetabled wheelchair accessible bus services now operate on all main corridors and cross-regional routes. Many of these services provide links to accessible train stations to increase opportunities for multi-modal travel. Wheelchair accessible bus services are identified by the wheelchair icon in bus timetables located on the Transport Info website.
There are currently 13 Metrobus routes operating in Sydney which are fitted with on-board next stop information systems providing audible notifications and in-bus displays. The State Transit Authority operates 8 of the Metrobus routes, using a dedicated fleet of 158 accessible buses.
Following consultation with Vision Australia, all new buses now feature LED destination signs on the front of the bus. The contrast between the large white text and black background is easier to read for customers with vision impairment.
In conjunction with Transport for NSW, the State Transit Authority is investigating options to help passengers determine their location during a public transport journey. This includes developing real-time accessibility applications to assist passengers with vision, mobility, cognitive and, hearing impairment.
All contracted NSW TrainLink regional coaches are now wheelchair accessible.
Trains and stations
At the completion of current Transport Access Program projects in delivery, 165 (53.7 percent) of the stations on the Sydney Trains and Intercity networks will be accessible, compared with 131 stations (42.7 percent) in 2012. These stations account for approximately 91 percent of patronage.
All trains operating on the Sydney Trains and Intercity networks are accessible for customers using mobility devices with ‘direct assistance’ using a portable boarding ramp. The age of legacy rail infrastructure and its configuration means that ‘direct assistance’ will continue to be necessary across the existing network.
The accessibility of the train fleet varies and is largely a function of the train’s age and the accessibility requirements at the time of purchase. Trains purchased prior to the establishment of the Transport Standards in 2002 generally provide few accessibility features. These trains are progressively being replaced with a more accessible fleet.
The Waratah fleet is as compliant as possible with the Transport Standards applicable at the time of their introduction from 2011. The Waratah trains and their predecessor, the Millennium trains, make up approximately 47 percent of the suburban fleet and offer enhanced facilities including:
- Allocated accessible spaces.
- Priority seats for elderly and less mobile passengers.
- Accessible emergency help points.
- Audio and visual destination information.
- Colour contrasted doors and handrails.
The accessibility of the fleet will continue to be enhanced in the coming years through the following projects:
- New Intercity Fleet Program – A new fleet will be introduced from The fleet will significantly improve accessibility and will progressively replace the existing intercity fleet, including the ageing V-set trains.
- Tangara Technology Upgrade – This project will improve accessibility features, such as introducing on-board visual passenger information systems, colour contrasted doors and handrails, priority seating and emergency help
- The Sydney Metro – The new metro fleet will be fully From 2019, Sydney Metro Northwest will operate between Cudegong Road and Chatswood. The second stage of the project, Sydney Metro City and Southwest, will extend the line from Chatswood, through the city and onto Bankstown. The existing Bankstown line will be converted to metro operation.
To ensure the clarity of announcements for people with vision impairment, almost 3000 staff have completed radio training at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. This training is ongoing. Train guards have been briefed on announcement procedures, with regular auditing in place.
Newtown station accessibility upgrade
The Newtown Station accessibility upgrade included new covered walkways, a new lift, upgraded toilet and retail premises, new platform canopies, improved CCTV, lighting, signage, tactile ground surface indicators and bike racks. As a result of the upgrade, Newtown Station became fully accessible for the first time.
An independent study conducted by the NSW Council of Social Services (NCOSS) found that customers were very positive about the upgrade, specifically identifying improvements to accessibility, safety and customer information.
Train station upgrades can help to encourage people to use public transport. Although there are always many drivers of patronage, including macroeconomic conditions, service quality and local factors, it is notable that Newtown Station’s patronage increased by
12 percent the year the accessibility upgrade was completed.
Ferries and wharves
The NSW Government is progressively upgrading ferry wharves across Sydney as part of the Transport Access Program.
The new wharf design includes a floating pontoon and a fixed entry bridge connected by a gangway and ramp, providing safe level access for wheelchairs and mobility aids.
Upgraded accessibility features include audio and visual destination information, a hearing loop to assist hearing impaired customers (positioned in an accessible location) and accessible emergency help points.
Seventy two percent of Sydney Harbour commuter wharves are now accessible, compared to 37 percent in 2012.
All Sydney Ferries vessels are accessible to people using wheelchairs and mobility aids. With a view to delivering whole of journey accessibility, Transport for NSW is working with local councils to improve landside access to wharves.
All light rail services and stations are accessible to wheelchair and mobility device users. The Inner West Light Rail Extension expanded the network, adding nine new light rail stops between Lilyfield and Dulwich Hill. The project included real-time passenger information at the new and existing stops, new access paths, facilities for changing between transport modes, kiss and ride parking and dedicated accessible parking spaces. Other light rail projects currently in progress to deliver new, accessible light rail networks and services include the CBD and South East Light Rail, Newcastle Light Rail and Parramatta Light Rail.
There are now 918 Wheelchair Accessible Taxis (WATs) in operation in NSW compared to 837 in 2012.
Recent reforms to the point to point transport industry will improve WAT services for people with disability. The cost of taxi licences for WATs has been reduced to zero in metro areas (in line with the rest of NSW) and the cost of a centralised booking service for WATs in metropolitan Sydney has been subsidised. The Taxi Transport Subsidy Scheme (TTSS) cap has been increased from $30 to $60 and the WAT driver incentive payment has been increased from $7.70 (ex GST) to $15 (ex GST). The NSW Government has allocated $5 million annually in additional funding for WAT interest free loans. Applicants can now receive up to $100,000 (up from $30,000) repayable over up to 10 years (previously five years) to assist with purchase and modifications to vehicles. For the first time, WAT loans are being targeted to areas with insufficient supply.
Following the recommendation of the Point to Point Taskforce Report of 2015, the TTSS is currently being reviewed. The current review is considering: the effectiveness of current incentives to encourage investment in wheelchair accessible vehicles and to prioritise use of the vehicles for customers with disability; how the scheme is administered to benefit customers; and the feasibility of moving to a service provider- neutral transport subsidy scheme and the potential impact on service availability, cost and safety compliance.
On 1 December 2014, an additional penalty of one demerit point was introduced for two offences related to illegally parking in a space reserved for a person holding a valid Mobility Parking Scheme (MPS) Authority. Both offences attract a fine ($549 as at 1 July 2017). The introduction of a demerit point penalty is aimed at deterring drivers from illegally parking in a designated disability parking space.
Licensing and registration concessions are offered to people with disability and their carers who currently receive a Commonwealth Carer Allowance from the Department of Human Services (DHS) – Centrelink. Holders of a Pensioner Concession Card from Centrelink or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs are exempt most licence and registration fees.
Accessibility user testing
The accessibility of new infrastructure projects is being assured through compliance with relevant standards and through extensive user testing.
- The extension of the light rail system into the CBD will include a pedestrian zone on George Street between Hunter and Bathurst Streets. Prototypes of tactile hazard perception strips have been tested by customers with vision impairment and wheelchair users to ensure the comfort and safety of both user groups in the pedestrian zone.
- A prototype station and platform for the Sydney Metro Northwest project has been constructed at Rouse Hill. User testing has been conducted by customers with vision impairment, customers with mobility restrictions, older people and people with cognitive disability, to ensure that the new train line is fully accessible.
- Six new ferries for Sydney’s ferry fleet have been delivered. People with disability were involved in the fleet design from concept design to delivery. Testing by users of wheelchairs and mobility aids resulted in design changes to the accessible spaces in the internal cabins and the accessible toilets on the vessels.
Accessible information technology and research
The improvements to timetable and real- time information mean that it is now easier than ever to plan fully accessible journeys.
The Transport Info website uses trip notes to show accessible trips to assist customers using trip planning and timetable searches. Customers with disability can now plan their trips using only accessible services.
A ‘location facilities’ search tool has been introduced that lists facilities (including accessible features) at stations, interchanges and wharves.
The Transport Info website is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) AA 2.0 compliant. Work is underway to ensure that all Transport for NSW public facing websites exceed minimum WCAG compliance targets.
Real-time information on lifts closed for maintenance or repair is now provided through the 131 500 Transport Info line, customer SMS and twitter feeds, and on the Transport Info website (tailored to customers’ specific trip plans), as well as on real-time smart phone apps.
There have been significant advances in smart phone apps since the release of the Disability Action Plan in 2012. The following accessibility apps have been developed and made available:
- abil.io enables customers with limited mobility to access the public transport system. Customers can plan their trip in real-time and be provided with comfortable walking distances that avoid significant uphill or downhill slopes and stairs.
- Metarove is a public transport trip planning app for customers with limited mobility, or who use a mobility aid such as a wheelchair, scooter or crutches or who travel with a pram or luggage.
- Stop Announcer (NSW), designed for customers with vision impairment, is a route guidance app which provides audio notifications of stops made along a route as customers approach and arrive at their stop.
Other real-time travel apps have improved their accessibility features. Arrivo Sydney provides real-time departure and vehicle location information for trains, buses, ferries and light rail. It includes next stop audio announcements and is optimised for android accessibility, support of screen readers and large text.
NextThere keeps track of your location and displays when the next buses and trains are due to depart from the user’s location. It also provides information on platform length and supports screen readers on iOS.
Transport for NSW has also partnered with the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation through initiatives such as Smart Cities and Accessibility. This has resulted in a number of teams working to develop the next round of travel apps to make transport more accessible for people with disability. The apps include:
- OrienTrip – Designed to assist people on the Autism Spectrum manage their travel journey.
- SwiftFare – Replacing TTSS docket- based system with an intellgient digital application.
- TripGo – Personalised trip companion to improve the transport journey for people with disability.
A new Wayfinding Mode Identifiers project has been rolled out, providing illuminated signs to enhance visibility. This will assist people with disability and older people to better navigate the transport network. New passenger information display screens have been installed on station platforms and real-time accessible information installed on-board ferries and at wharves.
Sydney Trains is currently investigating whether wayfinding technology – Low Energy Bluetooth beacons and a smartphone application – could be used to help customers with vision impairment navigate transport locations.
Public transport has been made more accessible by the introduction of the Opal electronic ticketing system. Opal has provided a number of benefits to consumers including convenience and speed in paying for public transport, the ability to use the same card across all modes of transport, automatic calculation of the cheapest fare, increased security for lost or stolen passes and easier ways to reload value.
The Opal card reader uses visual symbols (on display screens) and distinctive audio tones to help users understand whether they have successfully tapped on and tapped off.
An Opal card with tactile elements for vision impaired users has been developed. Holders of the Vision Impaired Person’s (VIP) travel pass are entitled to free travel on public transport and can use their Opal card to open the access gates at train stations and ferry wharves.
Inclusive customer service and feedback
New processes for capturing customer feedback provided through the 131 500 Transport Infoline provides a variety of useful information regarding disability. If a customer reports having a disability, the Transport Infoline now enables the reporting of discriminatory service provision, anti-social behaviour and accessibility and safety issues so they can be monitored and addressed.
Regular meetings continue to be held with the Accessible Transport Advisory Committee (ATAC). The committee has representatives from disability and ageing organisations, who provide expert guidance on access and inclusion to Transport for NSW.
Additional working groups are created as required to provide advice on specific, major upgrades to public transport infrastructure and services.
“We are from Orange and our 13 year old son is a power wheelchair user.
Initially nervous about using the train system … when we arrived at North Ryde an attendant approached us and assisted with ticket purchase and then directed us to the correct
platform where another attendant put us on the train with a ramp. When we arrived at Town Hall there was another attendant. This service was consistent throughout all stations. It made traveling with a wheelchair so easy.
Well done on improving accessibility on your service ... it was fantastic that the staff were very responsive and professional … a credit to the organisation.”
– Commuter feedback provided through 131 500
Key employment initiatives have been delivered to enhance employment opportunities for people with disability. These include:
- Establishing a Disability Employee Resource Group to facilitate consultation about employment equity.
- Setting targets and recruiting trainees and cadets with disability, as part of the Transport Talent Pipeline Program.
- Delivering disability awareness training to recruitment officers.
- Establishing a partnership with the National Disability Recruitment Coordinator to assist in sourcing and selecting suitable staff with disability for vacant The National Disability Recruitment Coordinator service is run by the Commonwealth Department of Employment to work with employers across Australia to develop job opportunities for job seekers with disability.
From 2013, all organisations within the Transport cluster report on the number of staff who identify as having a disability and the number who require workplace adjustments.
Working at Transport for NSW
“I have been completely blind for almost thirteen years now. In this period of time I have noticed much change to the world around me, and it has been changed for the better.
When I first started my employment in the Transport cluster back in 2011, it was one first of many. It was the first time I had a full-time paid job; I was the first in RMS to use screen reading technology; and for most of my colleagues it was the first time they had worked with a person with disability. So naturally in those early days being the first had its own challenges, as I was also the first one to find out when things did not work for me. Five years on, much has changed. I am no longer the only employee in our building with disability; I have progressed a rung or two up the career ladder; our Transport Intranet team designs our internal pages with screen reader users in mind; and on the whole, our entire organisation across the board embraces inclusion and diversity, not just through words, but by action. I only wonder how my experience with Transport as an employee and as a customer might be in another five years time.”
Dawson, Project Officer, Transport Shared Services