Transport accessibility and safety upgrades are gearing up across New South Wales and Queensland, with a milestone achievement for a Queensland accessibility program and a new technology being trialled at Sydney’s Circular Quay.

The Queensland Government’s $500 million accessibility program has seen a 500-tonne crane lift in a brand-new pedestrian footbridge at Cannon Hill station, one of 17 stations in the south east being overhauled to make them more accessible for Queenslanders, including those with a disability and older people. 

Queensland Transport and Main Roads Minister, Mark Bailey, said making stations more accessible was key to encouraging public transport use, especially with the downturn in patronage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we’ve seen during COVID is more people moving to Queensland because of the way we continue to manage the health response, and it’s vital from a public transport perspective that the accessibility is there to accommodate our diverse and growing population,” Mr Bailey said.

“Importantly, we also want the jobs in fields like construction there for people who want work and are choosing Queensland as the place to be.”

It follows the establishment of the State Government’s Queensland Accessible Transport Advisory Council, which aims to give a voice to those with vision, hearing, physical or cognitive impairments, older people, parents and youth groups when it comes to building public transport.

“There’s $26.9 billion worth of transport and road projects coming over the next four years plus the $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project, all supporting close to 30,000 jobs, and I think we can all agree that we want them to be as accessible to as many people as possible,” Mr Bailey said.

Mr Bailey said in addition to works happening at Cannon Hill, station upgrades were also in full swing at Dakabin, Auchenflower, East Ipswich, Fairfield and Yeronga, with upgrades at Yeerongpilly, Moorooka, Rocklea, Salisbury, Banyo, Bundamba, Burpengary, Wooloowin, Lindum and Morningside to follow.

Those upgrades will feature new footbridges, lifts, accessible car parks, raised platforms, upgraded hearing augmentation loops, tactile platform surfaces, updated security, lighting and station signage.

“That’s on top of what the Palaszczuk Government is doing more broadly with the $335 million program to fix the NGRs, new stations in the Brisbane CBD and on the Gold Coast, light rail Stage 3 to Burleigh, and our commitment to build new trains in Maryborough,” Mr Bailey said.

“Regionally, we’ve also seen new accessible buses rolled out across major hubs by our partners who operate public transport and upgrades to train stations along the spine of the North Coast line.

“With a renewed focus on accessibility in recent years, the desire to see more people take public transport and the need to create jobs, we’ve jumped on a really unique opportunity right now for us to build better public transport and spark a construction boom.”

Minister for Employment and Small Business and Member for Bulimba, Di Farmer, said making public transport more accessible was so essential for everyone to participate in their communities and to access vital services.

“Traffic congestion is an issue, and in an inner-city community like ours, it really important to make it easier for parents with children, those with disabilities, the young and the elderly to use public transport,” Ms Farmer said.

“Plenty of local tradies are also so enthusiastic about this project and on this upgrade alone, 250 jobs have been created in fields including electrical, carpentry, painting, plumbing, labouring, roofing, glazing, and traffic control.

“Benefits of station upgrades are two-fold, with greater access to public transport for the community and a boost to our economic recovery plan with job creation and infrastructure.”  

Ms Farmer said construction on the Cannon Hill station upgrade was expected to be completed by early 2022, weather and construction conditions permitting.

“To-date, the station’s new 35 metre footbridge is the longest footbridge installed as part of the program,” Ms Farmer said.

“Following the bridge’s lift-in, fit out works will commence ahead of its opening with lift installation works to follow.”

Sydney’s Quay technology trial

Rubber gap filler technology is being trialed at Circular Quay to improve safety and accessibility across the Sydney Trains network.

NSW Minister for Transport and Roads, Andrew Constance, said the technology is an innovative way of preventing people falling between the platform and the train. 

“Circular Quay is one of the busiest stations and has one of the highest number of falls between the platform and train on the Sydney Trains network, with children and elderly customers most likely to fall and be injured,” Mr Constance said.

“Parts of the rail network are more than 165 years old and there is no one-stop-shop solution to preventing customer falls. 

“Every platform has unique properties such as gradients, curves and varying heights, and requires a tailored, engineered approach.

“The results of this trial will help Sydney Trains assess the suitability of using the rubber gap filler technology on other platforms similar to Circular Quay.”

Acting Chief Executive of Sydney Trains, Suzanne Holden, said on average, five people fall through the gap across the Sydney Trains network each week.

“We want everyone who uses our network to be safe at all times which is why we are committed to upgrading stations for improved safety and accessibility,” Ms Holden said.

“Sydney Trains’ engineers have studied the experience of other networks in Australia and overseas to adapt the rubber gap filler technology for Sydney.

“While there’s a long way to go, we are confident this technology may be a solution to improving safety and accessibility on some of our problem platforms.”

The design and manufacture of the rubber gap fillers was undertaken in Australia.

The Circular Quay trial will run until the end of March 2021.

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