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DISABILITY advocates have attacked a plan to put the state’s troubled new passenger trains into service despite unresolved access problems.
The plan to begin rolling out the first of the new trains next week pre-empts a looming decision by the Australian Human Rights Commission on whether the non-compliant trains should be given an exemption from meeting disability access standards.
Queensland Rail chief executive officer Nick Easy today announced plans to put the first train in service on the Gold Coast line on Monday.
Mr Easy said the a joint temporary exemption application had been made to the commission to address non-compliances while the trains were redesigned and fixed.
He said the trains would be used on the network while the rectified trains were progressively rolled out.
“The NGR trains are essential to meeting demand during the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and our team has worked around the clock to ensure they were ready this year,” he said.
The trains, approved by the previous LNP administration, would be the first of the seriously delayed $4.4 billion project to enter service.
The New Generation Rollingstock fleet is finally rolling out.They were first planned to be running by mid-2016, but the project timeframe blew out due to a series of mechanical and design flaws.
Problems include aisles in train carriages too narrow for those with a disability to navigate and on board toilets too small for wheelchairs.
Transport Minister Jackie Trad in September revealed the disability access problems would cost the State Government $100 million to fix.
A decision on the Government’s urgent application to the commission is not expected until after public consultation in January, just months before the Games.
An independent report this year found 18 of the NGR trains would be needed to meet the Games’ transport plan.
The State Government has so far been unable to say how many would be ready.
Disability advocate Geoff Trappett slammed today’s announcement, and said he would lodge a complaint with the commission.
“We are amazed and appalled at the arrogance of Queensland Rail to be putting into service an NGR train they know is non-compliant,” Mr Trappett said.
Last month The Sunday Mail revealed NGR trains had spent months at sea and in Vanuatu as the Government was locked in a stand-off with Bombardier.
The NGR rollout comes a month before the Gold Coast light rail stage two begins operation, allowing train passengers to connect with tram services at Helensvale station.
This article first appeared on www.couriermail.com.au
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