Southern Highlands Electorate Railway Stations Access

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SpeakersSeaton Ms Peta
BusinessPrivate Members Statements

Page: 4471

    Ms SEATON (Southern Highlands) [10.00 p.m.]: Tonight I wish to draw to the attention of the House and the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads in particular the issue of access to Picton station. As anyone who has visited Picton railway station knows, access is very difficult unless one is what some people jokingly refer to as a mountain goat. It is a very difficult station to move around on and it is very difficult for passengers to go from one platform to another. I am disappointed that the Government's Easy Access Program seems to have completely ignored the very pressing needs of Picton station.

    At one of the very first meetings I attended in the Wollondilly area after the 1998 redistribution in the Estonian retirement village at Thirlmere, a matter mentioned by residents was the need to upgrade the facilities at Picton station, particularly the need to make it easier for older people to get around. They made the point that a handrail was needed on the set of stairs leading to the Bridge Street access overpass. I am pleased to inform the House that representations regarding the handrail were successful, but that was really only the beginning of what needs to be done at Picton station. When I met other senior citizens groups and other people who live in Picton, the issue of access at Picton station was repeatedly raised with me. As many honourable members know, Picton is a hilly area. The railway line traverses a very deep cutting. In order to move from one platform to another, rail travellers have to climb a very steep set of steps that have been cut into the side of a hill, walk over the Bridge Street overpass and then back down onto the other platform.

    Many people jokingly remark that one has to be a mountain goat to be able to get up and down the steps. The steps are very difficult and I sympathise with people who experience difficulties. On a recent visit to Picton I met people who depend on motorised wheelchairs to be able to get around and another gentleman I met had recently had a hip replacement. These people rely on trains to visit relatives, to keep medical appointments or just to enjoy life generally. They really have a very difficult time when moving around Picton station. Many people avoid Picton station altogether, even though Picton is their home town, and make arrangements to catch a train at Tahmoor instead, or somewhere else where access to the station is flatter.

    People have been telling me that they want better facilities to enable them to cross the rail tracks and get from one platform to another without having to go up the steps and down the other side. It is important to address access to Picton station because Picton has a developing tourism industry. Local residents are eager to attract visitors to Picton, which has wonderful heritage and natural environment attractions to offer. The steam train that travels from Picton station to the Thirlmere steam rail museum along the old loop line attracts a great deal of interest, but people who wish to enjoy the trip usually are elderly and experience enormous difficulties when using the station's facilities.

    According to a recent announcement, Bowral station has been included in the Easy Access Program. A problem of more importance at Bowral station, however, is that two years ago the Government reduced the station's operating hours by excluding weekends and some of the later hours of weekday evenings. People who journey to Bowral and who expect to be able to use bathroom facilities are unable to do so, except during the limited weekday opening hours. The station does not present commuters, tourists and visitors with a welcoming environment when they get off the train. I have mentioned this matter to the local tourism manager at Wingecarribee who is examining ways of improving signs to direct people to other public facilities that are available in Bowral, but it must be said that the paucity of facilities such as public toilets at Bowral station is becoming a problem. It is a matter that has been remarked upon by local people and visitors. I ask the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads and the Minister for Small Business, and Minister for Tourism to take these matters into account with a view to improving facilities.