Monday, June 30, 2014

Rumour: Wheelchair passengers to get holders to place their Opal Card in - UPDATE!

After we reported earlier last month (June that is) that the Transport Minister would be set to announce the availability of the gold opal card for pensioners and concessioners, this morning after having a discussion per say with Opal card info people at Blacktown, I asked them what would happen for someone who is in a wheelchair who is unable to physically tap on and tap off their opal card and their reply was an interesting one.

The reply which I received was that they would be getting able to get a plastic holder which would ensure they could tap on and tap off. Now this got my intrigued and I asked how it would work to which the reply was probably the most typical of anything which was they couldn't exactly explain how such a device would work.

So I ditched the opal ladies and hopped aboard my train to work and thought I would ask my sources what they may have to say about this quite startling revelation. Unfortunately my sources didn't really have much to say and would not confirm NOR deny that such a device is going to be made available to people in wheelchairs who are not able to physically tap on or tap off at stations, buses, ferries or light rail stops.

So I have placed the question directly to OPAL directly who are yet to respond and it also got me wondering if the device would be made available freely to people with disabilities or whether a fee or certain restrictions be placed to get this device?

It also made me wonder what the device would physically look like and how it would work given wheelchair come in an array of various builds and sizes, so how could this impact how the device is being able to be used or placed on a wheelchair?

I am awaiting to see what Opal or the Transport for NSW will reply with and will inform everyone once a reply comes into the Transport for All NSW inbox.

Until then what would your thoughts be about this card holding device? What do you think it would like like? What will it be built from and how would it fit onto any and all wheelchairs available to us all?
according to other Opal Card sellers and sources, there are several prototypes being made however Cubic Sydney Australia (aka Opal) are still in the trial process. We are hoping to get some pictures or at least diagrams of these prototypes so stay tuned!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Busways - the bus company we love to hate

Last week there were 2 incidents involving Busways, the bus company that is contracted with the NSW Government to run bus services within the Region 1 area - namely between Richmond, Hawkesbury Valley, Penrith, Mt Duritt and Blacktown are including parts of the Hills are along with the Central Coast and North Coast of NSW.

The two incidents, of which one involved a fellow cyclist to be ran over, dragged and ultimately dying later in hospital due to the injuries sustained, has lead to a blitz which was undertaken by RMS inspectors and the police.

With this blitz, between 8 to 18 buses were found to have various mechanical issues, namely brake, steering and general mechanical issues which the company have since stated have all been addressed and fixed, but there have been concerns over Busways and other bus companies given the extremely tight and unacceptable bus timetables.

But this certainly isn’t the first time Busways has been in trouble. The bus company was found back in in the early 2000’s, when its drivers along with CDC’s Westbus/Hillsbus caught speeding in and out of the tunnel and there were calls at the time to have speeding cameras installed. 

Busways has also been citicised by fellow commuters and government officials for the lack of services it provides to the community, given that most buses are still not wheelchair accessible, nor  frequent services, given that most either run extremely late or are cancelled with little or no notice.

So why is it that a bus company with such a poor reputation continue to operate under an expanded region 1 contract in western Sydney? This question  makes us wonder if Gladys actually listens to the community or just rather hand out to contracts to incumbents who honestly put both staff and commuters safety at risk everyday.

My response would be for the incumbent transport minister, Gladys Berejiklian, to come out and try using all these services to see how bad Busways have become and explain why she has allowed for commuters lives to be put at risk because of her undeliverable transport improvements.

Of course we know this won’t happen, but still worth a wish


We wish to also point out that buses owned prior to 2007 are owned by the company, however ownership can be spun out to the government as part of an ownership structure change. This is outlined by the region contract terms and conditions. However Busways can request more accessible buses under the contract to help sure up timtetable.

Our main point of this story is that one company should be allowed to operate such a huge area given the issues outlined above. Two bus companies should be operating to ensure competition but also provide better services.

Sydney Rapid Transit - our concerns

The NSW Liberal/National Government announced last week that they will be extending the currently under construction North-West Rail Link (NWRL) from the end of the line at Chatswood to the city and onwards to Bankstown.

Of course all this hinges on the Liberal?National government winning the general election next March with the mandate to lease 49% of the poles, wires and remaining electricity generators.

Now whilst we don’t want to call the result for the Election next year, because lets be honest here, even 24 hours can seem like a lifetime, but it would seem on this basis the Liberal/National Government will get back into office albeit with probably a minority.

But to get the to the nitty gritty, there are issues with this plan for the second harbour train tunnel because it would seem they have announced this without doing any ground work to see if the route is viable or not.

So what are the issues with this proposal? Well the issues namely relate to the new link taking in the existing Bankstown line and converting it to rapid transit. The issues are:

  • between Redfern and Sydenham the Bankstown line utilises the East Hill line tracks which are used for express purposes. The issues namely relate to how this will effect the East Hills, South-west and Cambelltown/Macarthur line and whether the government is planning to build new track between Redfern & Sydenham to seperate the East Hills line Express services and the rapid transit lines. This would also have an impact on a number of properties between Sydenham and Erskineville, as they would have to be brought and demolished for this to occur.
  • How will the Rapid Transit utilise the current Bankstown Line stations. 
  • What modifications would need to be done to the stations to allow the trains to fit into the platforms given they are smaller than the current double decker rolling stock.
  • How long would the Bankstown line be out of action for the conversion from heavy rail to rapid transit
  •  When is the upgrades due to occur and how lone will it take in total
  • Would the Government need to build a bigger interchange station at Bankstown to allow people to interchange between the rapid transit line to the heavy rail suburban Sydney Trains service?
  • With the new stations to be built in the city, how will the interchange be possible between the current Town Hall Station and the to be built Pitt St Station, being they will be on top of one another (according to the fact sheets released by the Government).
  • Would the rapid transit be extended to Hurstville like it was originally planned to do so?

Of course these concerns are on top of the current issues surrounding how people with disabilities or requiring assistance will be able to get aboard the rapid transit trains being they will be driverless and not have any guards on board. It is also believed that there will be little if not no Public Service Attendant (also known as station staff) at stations according to various reports also released by the current incumbent government.

We have sought comment for these issues but are yet to receive any word back.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rumour: Gold Concessioner/Pensioner Card to be Available either lateAugust or September

We here at TfANSW have heard rumors from people close to the Opal Card project, that the Transport Minister will be finally announcing the availability of the Gold Concessioner/Pensioner Opal Card either in late August or September.

The announcement which will be scheduled to happen a couple of days if not a week before the rollout of the Gold Opal card, is a welcomed move, however TfANSW still have concerns and so far to no avail been able to confirm how people with severe disabilities or mobility issues will be able to simply tap on or off at their destinations respectfully.

For example, there is a current policy for State Transit operated Sydney Buses to simply allow people with disabilities who are unable to dip their ticket in and out of a machine, can simply "hop aboard" without requiring to do this.

However there is no such policy for Sydney Trains or NSW TrainLink operated services and this certainly raises the questions, what should they do to fix this major loophole?

One option TfANSW has floated for the last 2 years has been the option of an e-tag system, where a tag can be permanently fixed to ones wheelchair (or walker, which ever is the case) and an e-tag reader be placed above the wide gates. When the e-tag reader reads the e-tag, a simple beep will be heard and the gates open.

This would allow users more freedom and ensure that they are being able to pay their fare without hassle.

We have reached out to the transport Minister, Glayds Berejiklian, for comment, but at time of publish of this post, we still haven't heard back.