Lauredhel had a post a few days ago noting the plight of a quadriplegic man abandoned while the ablebodied passengers were evacuated during the train breakdown on the Sydney Harbour Bridge recently and told he would be evacuated “in two or three days”. (Luckily nearby construction workers showed some initiative and rescued him using a forklift.)
Apparently this was not just a regrettable lapse or someone’s wires getting crossed about emergency procedure, it’s standard operating procedure for CityRail: CityRail’s new generation of passenger carriages have been designed with no facility for evacuating wheelchairs at all.
A CityRail spokeswoman confirmed last night wheelchair passengers would not be able to access the evacuation ramps and must wait for a stretcher in an emergency on the new public-private partnership-funded trains.
The Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association of NSW and Spinal Cord Injuries Australia fear the system will place wheelchair passengers at greater risk than able-bodied passengers.
They are worried that disabled travellers would be forgotten in a terrorist incident like the July bombings of the London Underground.
ParaQuad spokeswoman Deborah Schofield said evacuating wheelchair passengers from the side of the train posed a problem inside tunnels.
ParaQuad has urged CityRail to direct its private sector partner, Reliance Rail – a consortium that includes Downer EDI, ABN Amro and John Holland – back to the drawing board.
“It seems at this stage RailCorp and EDI have no idea how to get wheelchair users off trains in the event of an emergency,” Ms Schofield said.
How on earth can a commuter transport company in the 21st century not make adequate provision for emergency evacuation of passengers in wheelchairs? This is people’s lives at stake, not just our society’s general casual negligence of making life unnecessarily difficult for the disabled.
Why is it that whenever I hear of public infrastructure fiascos involving incompetence wrapped up in heartlessness I am not surprised that a private-public partnership bottom line is the slimy centre of the package?