by Kim

I’m a T6 paraplegic and I’ve been in a wheelchair for almost 44 years. I like to catch the train back to Bairnsdale now and then rather than drive, as I now live in Stratford.

On several occasions I’ve gone to the Stratford railway station knowing that buses are replacing trains for the day, due to line repairs. The coach is scheduled for several trips each day, and the timetable shows the accessible symbol, so it looks like I should be able to make my journey.

The coach arrives and the driver says “Sorry, the lift into the bus isn’t working, I cannot load you. But it’s all okay, I will ring the head office and get them to send a taxi for you… but no, not the local Stratford/Sale taxi.” 

And so it begins. V/Line only contract Silvertop Taxis from Melbourne. They ring their contractors, who are Bairnsdale City taxis, 50 KMs away, and then the wait begins.

My expected bus departure is at 10:15am. By the time all calls are made and a wheelchair taxi arrives it’s an hour or two later. The last time it was for a 1 pm funeral of a very close friend AND I ARRIVED THERE at 1:10 pm  – they held up the start time for me to arrive. 

All this happened on four more occasions. That’s when I planned to do something about the problem.

“They said that the drivers don’t feel the lifts into the buses are “safe to use”, so they pretend they don’t work.”

I contacted the local MP Tim Bull, who was very helpful, he contacted ABC News TV.  I also contacted the Disability Advocacy Board, who did nothing but told me to continue on with my complaints myself.

Repeatedly, I have sat there at the Stratford railway station, alone, waiting for collection to travel to Bairnsdale, and every time they say I’m sorry, the lift isn’t working, I cannot load you. Can you walk on? NO. I can’t. Next time the excuse was the remote control for the lift was missing! “I’m sorry, I cannot load you.”

I was interviewed by ABC News late last year (just google ‘Kim Lee ABC’ and you’ll find it).

The problem also exists from the other end, being Bairnsdale, and I presume travel to Melbourne also. It’s time for action. I believe this is discrimination, to advertise on the train timetable wheelchair access for buses and trains, but buses are not supplying wheelchair access.

After speaking with someone who works for the local bus lines, I’m not holding out much hope things will improve. They said that the drivers don’t feel the lifts into the buses are “safe to use”, so they pretend they don’t work.

All I’m asking for is V/Line to please just send a wheelchair accessible bus to cover travel for all wheelchair & disabled people while trains aren’t running. The current situation is totally unfair, and very inconvenient.

  • March 19, 2024

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