Transport Minister shocked by Unanderra train station video

The NSW Transport Minister has labelled footage of a double amputee crawling up the stairs at Unanderra train station as ‘‘distressing’’.
The NSW Transport Minister has labelled footage of a double amputee crawling up the stairs at Unanderra train station as ‘‘distressing’’.

Transport minister Gladys Berejiklian has labelled video footage of a double amputee crawling up the stairs at Unanderra train station as ‘‘distressing’’.

There were two videos of the incident filmed last week.

The first video shows a man with no legs pushing himself backwards with his hands up the platform stairs at Unanderra station.

While he makes his way up the stairs on the left, grimacing at times with the effort, stroke victim Bec Schmidt slowly climbs on the right holding tightly to the railing while her partner watches on carefully.

Near the top is a senior citizen - well-known Illawarra playwright Wendy Richardson - struggling to carry a bag up the stairs.

As an illustration of those affected by the difficult access to the station platform, all that is missing is a parent with a pram.

The second video starts with Ms Schmidt coming down the stairs, holding the railing with both hands.

As she nears the bottom, the man appears at the top, this time in his wheelchair.

Alarmingly, he turns and heads down the stairs backwards, holding the railing and almost losing control at least once.

A wheelchair-bound man struggles down the stairs in the video.

A wheelchair-bound man struggles down the stairs in the video.

Eighty-one year -old Ms Richardson, best-known for her play Windy Gully, said Unanderra is her closest station and she always had trouble negotiating the stairs.

‘‘I have had incredible trouble with the stairs,’’ Ms Richardson said.

‘‘Until I  had a hip replaced in June last year,  I struggled up those stairs, it would take me ages.

‘‘I often felt quite precarious, particularly coming down the stairs.’’

The footage was concerning for Ms Berejiklian.

‘‘It’s distressing to see anyone in the community struggle to access public transport – whether they’re elderly, customers with a disability or families with prams,’’ Ms Berejiklian said.

‘‘I want to see every station on the network accessible with ramps or lifts and that’s why since coming to government, we have worked hard to upgrade stations as part of the Transport Access Program.

‘‘When we came to government nearly two thirds of all stations on the network were not accessible via ramps or lifts.’’

When asked if the video made the case for lifts at Unanderra station more urgent, Ms Berejiklian said the government took an ‘‘evidence-based approach’’ to determine which transport upgrades will be delivered next.

‘‘Unanderra Station is being considered as part of this ongoing work and I will continue to listen to the concerns of the community and our hard-working candidate on the ground about this issue,’’ Ms Berejiklian said.

Bec Schmidt says she’s overwhelmed by the response to her Facebook page. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Bec Schmidt says she’s overwhelmed by the response to her Facebook page. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

A former Transport for NSW employee is behind a Facebook page calling for lifts to be installed at Unanderra train station.

Transport for NSW oversees the Transport Access Program, which aims to provide ‘‘stations that are accessible to the disabled, ageing and parents with prams’’, according to its website.

Bec Schmidt worked under contract as an administration  assistant until late last year. After  she left, she dedicated more time to the campaign for the installation of lifts at Unanderra.

It’s an issue that affects Ms Schmidt – she suffered a stroke on Easter Monday, 2008, and her ability to walk unaided is limited.

‘‘I only use the station if I have someone who can assist me,’’ Ms Schmidt said.

‘‘I wouldn’t be able to use it on my own because I have a walking frame that I use when I go out on my own in public. I would not be able to carry that up the stairs and walk up at the same time.  I wouldn’t be able to use the station if I needed to catch the train to go to work or anything like that. I can drive as well, so at the moment, if I do need to go on the train, I have to drive to Wollongong to do that.’’

As part of her campaign, she launched the Facebook page Elevators for Unanderra Train Station on Saturday. The page has really struck a chord – as of midday on Tuesday it had 1487 likes.

‘‘I put it up on Saturday and it’s blown out of proportion,’’ she said.

‘‘I did not expect to get that much response. It’s been overwhelming and I’m glad to see that so many people are getting on board to support it.’’

Ms Schmidt believed it was the recent video, which shows a man with no legs climbing up the stairs, that had sparked the support from the community and the politicians.

Ms Schmidt is also in that video, climbing the stairs with the help of the railing, followed by her partner.

She said was ‘‘appalled’’ to see the man forced to make his way up the stairs on his hands.

‘‘A lot of people would hear about these things previously and think they were bad but it’s a little different when you actually see it with your own eyes,’’ Ms Schmidt said.

‘‘I think seeing that footage has made people think ‘hang on, that’s not the best thing for him to have to do’. I think it makes a big difference that people can see it with their own eyes.

A man reverses his wheelchair down the steps at Unanderra station, the wheelchair threatening to flip over and tumble down at every precarious step.

One strong hand on the railing is all that keeps him alive. He is literally hanging on for grim life.

Going back up, he ditches the wheelchair and hauls himself up step by arduous step using only his arms. He has no choice, for he has no legs.

A woman who has suffered a stroke hobbles down.

An old lady struggles up, exhausted.

For more than 20 years, disabled residents and the community have campaigned for lifts at Unanderra.

The steps, which are exposed to the elements, are the only way in or out of the station’s island platform.

And for all that time, politicians from this party and that party have argued about it incessantly.

About promises. About funding. About blame.

And yet still today, if you’re in a wheelchair, or you’ve had a stroke, or you’re simply old, getting in and out of Unanderra station is your problem.

Deal with it if you can. If you can’t, too bad.

This week, as another state election hurtles towards us, the politicians have been at it again.

All three main  candidates for Wollongong have pledged  support for lifts.

Sitting Labor MP Noreen Hay says the lifts will be funded with $25 million.

Her Liberal opponent, Cameron Walters, promises to talk to his Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian.

And independent candidate Arthur Rorris  says the lift will be his first order of business.

But now the time for promises is over. You are all on notice. Unanderra is watching.

And so are we.


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