Graeme Innes – Audible on-train announcements

‘Next stop’ announcements on trains are critical for blind and vision-impaired travellers, who rely on them to  get off at the correct station.

PIAC represented Graeme Innes AM in a discrimination claim against RailCorp (now known as Sydney Trains) for failing to provide ‘next stop’ announcements. The case is a good example of the type of systemic outcomes that PIAC achieves through its work, resulting in widespread changes to trains across the Sydney network.

Issue

Everyone is entitled to use public transport services without discrimination. People who are blind or vision impaired rely on clear, consistent and accurate on-train announcements to be able to travel independently. 

Graeme Innes AM, the (then) Disability Discrimination Commissioner, sued RailCorp in his private capacity – following two years of complaints and unsuccessful representations to the relevant Minister and Department to provide appropriate on-train announcements.

Mr Innes, who is blind, alleged that Railcorp failed to make audible announcements on 36 train journeys between 28 March 2011 and 9 September 2011 and this amounted to unlawful discrimination.

Outcome

On 1 February 2013, the Federal Circuit Court found that RailCorp had breached the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002. Following the Court’s decision, a number of other complaints made against Sydney Trains by Mr Innes also settled through conciliation.

The case 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.

 

Case

Innes v Rail Corporation of NSW (No 2) [2013] FMCA 36 (1 February 2013) 

 

 

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