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South-west Victorian residents who use wheelchairs will welcome the $208 million Budget boost, but will still have to wait three more years for consistently accessible train carriages.
The 19-year-old Warrnambool man, who uses a wheelchair, wanted to study in Geelong after finishing high school, but he had to opt for a different course closer to home because the V/Line service could not reliably accommodate him.
This week's federal Budget included $208 million in funding to finish the upgrade on the Warrnambool train line which means modern, accessible carriages will be running on the rail by the end of 2023.
Mr Thulborn-McCorkell said the news is welcome, but he is unhappy with how long it has already taken and how long he still has to wait.
"It's taken so long to do something that's so simple," he said.
"I want to be able to go to Melbourne when I want to and not have to juggle 'will I have to go on a bus or get in a taxi with a stranger for three hours who probably won't even want to talk to me?'"
'Everyone deserves the same right'At the moment only some of the ageing carriages that run on the Warrnambool line are wheelchair accessible.
Mr Thulborn-McCorkell's mother Kylie Thulborn has spent years trying to draw attention to the issue.
She said she was relieved that there was a timeline for when newer carriages would start operating on the line.
"Everyone deserves the same opportunity or right to be able to use public transport," she said.
Harvey Thulborn-McCorkell has already had to make big life decisions around accessibility issues on his train line.(ABC South West Victoria: Sian Johnson)When an accessible carriage is not available to customers for the trip, which takes close to four hours, V/Line organises an alternative such as an accessible taxi.
Disability Resource Centre executive officer Kerri Cassidy said being able to use public transport was a basic human right.
"When people don't have reliable transport it means all the areas of their life that they want to participate in is put into jeopardy," she said.
"Like anybody, people with disabilities want to go to where they need to go when they need to get there, and have that reliability that when they go to the station that the next train that's scheduled to the platform they can get on."She said there were examples of people with disabilities who had arrived at stations along the Warrnambool line to find they were not able to get on the train who then spent an hour waiting for an accessible taxi to arrive from elsewhere.
"We think because we don't hear the stories they're not there," Ms Cassidy said.
"But people are often not using public transport because it's just not reliable."
Next stage of upgrade to start mid-2021Wannon MP Dan Tehan said providing the funding meant the second stage of the project would begin in the middle of next year and finish late in 2023.
"Better rail services means better access to other communities and it will also ultimately lead to stronger growth in our regions and better tourism in our regions," he said.
Mr Tehan said the design of the carriages was a state government issue, but "we need to be doing everything we can to ensure that our train carriages are inclusive".
Harvey Thulborn-McCorkell's life has been shaped by his access to public transport in country Victoria(ABC South West Victoria: Daniel Miles)A state government spokesperson said stage two would enable the modern, wheelchair-accessible VLocity carriages to run on the Warrnambool line at its completion.
The funding will cover upgrades to train-detection technology at 50 level crossings along the line between Warrnambool and Geelong.
"We're working with the Commonwealth Government to deliver the second stage of the Warrnambool Line Upgrade which will allow VLocity trains to run on the line for the first time," the spokesperson said.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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