A damning report has found Queensland’s new-generation trains breached laws relating to disability access, but were signed off by the Campbell Newman government anyway.
Retired District Court judge Michael Ford, who led the inquiry into the $4.4 billion NGR trains, found that the procurement process was flawed “from day one”.
What were the problems
The trains had walkways that were too narrow for wheelchairs, and there was no disabled access to toilets on some train cars.
They were signed off on by the Newman government, with the first delivered in 2015.
Mr Ford said people in Queensland Rail and the Transport Department knew of the problems before the contracts were signed, but didn’t take the issues to decision makers.
“There would have been people at middle-to-lower management who didn’t escalate problems and perhaps were afraid of giving bad news,” he said.
“There seemed to be an attitude that ‘we’d fix it later on’ as an appendage rather than an important part of the process.”
What happens now
The 75 NGR trains will now be rectified to include a second toilet and the size of each toilet will be increased by 10 percent.
The total cost of the rectification work is estimated at $335.7 million and is expected to be completed by 2024.
That timetable is not good enough, according to Geoff Trappett from disability advocacy group Inclusion Moves.
“The issue of the rectification time frame is one that really angers people with a disability,” he said.
“We notified the Government of these issues some years ago — in late 2015 — so that rectification had started then. Then we would be nearing the end of the rectification work, so it’s simply not good enough to have non-compliant trains on the track for another six or seven years.”
What the experts say
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Discrimination Claims, said the mistake should never have happened.
“This whole balls up shows a complete lack of respect for people with disabilities,” he said.
“Laws surrounding access for disabled people are very clear – for government representatives to sign off on these trains when there were clearly major issues is not good enough.
“People with disabilities have just as much of a right to safely and comfortably use public transport facilities, without having to worry that their wheelchair won’t fit as they try to get on and off buses and trains.
“Now the Queensland taxpayer is left to pay a high price for fixing what should never have happened in the first place.”
What the government says
Following the release of the report, the government issued a statement:
“The situation falls short of the government’s aim to provide an accessible public transport network for all members of our community.”
If you have experienced discrimination based on a disability or an impairment, you may be entitled to compensation.
Please call our team at Discrimination Claims today on 1300 853 837.
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