Audible on-train announcements

Graeme Innes

Innes v Rail Corporation NSW [2013] FMC 36 demonstrates the type of systemic outcomes that PIAC achieves through its work.

The case concerned the failure by Sydney Trains to provide audible ‘next stop’ announcements to enable blind passengers to use trains independently.

Following two years of complaints and unsuccessful representations about this problem to the relevant Minister and Department, Graeme Innes AM, the (then) Disability Discrimination Commissioner, who is blind, commenced action against RailCorp (later to become Sydney Trains). Mr Innes claimed that the failure to  make audible announcements on 36 train journeys between 28 March 2011 and 9 September 2011 amounted to unlawful discrimination.

PIAC took on the case and was successful, with the Federal Circuit Court finding that Sydney Trains had breached the Disability Discrimination Act. Following the Court’s decision, a number of other complaints made against Sydney Trains by Mr Innes also settled through conciliation.

The case has led to significant improvements to the frequency and audibility of on-train ‘next stop’ announcements. There are around 100,000 blind and vision-impaired people living in NSW and that number is predicted to increase by more than 20 per cent by 2020. With Sydney Trains operating 2,941 timetabled trips per weekday over the 961km of track across the greater suburban Sydney area, the impact of the case goes well beyond the outcome for the individual.

The case also led to a commitment by Sydney Trains to improving communication with people who are blind or have low vision about changes and developments on the rail network. As well as continuously monitoring and reporting the quality of audible announcements on their train network, Sydney Trains have agreed to provide ongoing information and reports about their train network to a number of peak groups, including Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, Blind Citizens NSW and Vision Australia.

Read the case here: Innes v Rail Corporation of NSW (No 2) [2013] FMCA 36 (1 February 2013)

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