It’s been an infamous piece of infrastructure that has prevented vulnerable community members from accessing public transport safely for decades, but finally, after many community-driven campaigns, the upgrades to Unanderra train station are officially open.
Transport Minister Jo Haylen joined local MPs Paul Scully, Ryan Park and Alison Byrnes to officially unveil the long-awaited project, but it was the determined advocates and community members who received so much of the credit when it was time to cut the ribbon.
“They started this long before I became the local member,” Minister Scully said. “I committed to leading the charge if I was elected and did so but I wouldn’t have had it without the backing of local businesses, community groups, the union movement and just members of the community who got behind it because they recognised the fundamental unfairness that this station kept getting overlooked.”
The Unanderra Access Group was initially instigated by Richard Kramer, who was a driving force behind the campaign for many years, with members such as Rebecca Schmidt-Lachlan continuing to lead the group and maintain the momentum until they saw results.
“It’s amazing,” Rebecca said. “It took a little bit to get there but we got there and it’s just a wonderful tribute to what the community can achieve when they all get behind and support each other.”
And although it was a tough fight, Rebecca was unwavering.
“I knew that I might have to go through quite a few avenues to get there but I’m a bit like a dog with a bone and I’m not going to stop until something gives and we see some action.”
Another member, Kerry Ryman, who has been involved since the beginning and worked at the station and others in the region for more than four decades, said there had been ups and downs throughout the campaign with political commitments and changing governments creating false hope.
“Back in 2010 we thought we were going to get the lifts, then all of a sudden when they built the new buildings they stopped the project and then there was a state election,” Kerry said.
“The Liberals took the funding away and that’s when the fight really started.”
But now, although long overdue, the upgrades have finally met the expectations of the community and improved accessibility for all.
“You’d see elderly people coming up over the old stairs and they’ve got bags and there’d be people with bikes and parents with prams and all that with kids,” Kerry said. “Now, straight into the lift across the platform and away they go.
“It’s made a huge difference to Unanderra and the surrounding suburbs.”
The prominent feature of three lifts actually became operational in June, with Minister Scully insistent that the public be able to use them as soon as possible.
“The idea that you would have lifts at Unanderra that couldn’t be accessed would be even worse than having stairs that were inaccessible,” Minister Scully said.
“So as soon as I knew that the switch was being flicked to have them tested and ready, I said to the Minister for Transport, ‘Let’s get people able to use them’ and I’ve had some great feedback ever since.”
And Transport Minister Jo Haylen said the next few years would bring even further change to improve the use and quality of our rail system and the network right across the state.
“The changes to timetables will come into play in the next couple of years across the network and there are significant changes occurring,” Minister Haylen said.
“The real game-changer for this part of the world will be the new intercity fleet.
“The long-awaited new fleet will again provide us with more capacity, so it will take some time, but those changes are coming because we know that people want reliable services. When we have reliable services with access, people use public transport more.”
But Kerry said advocates were still hoping for one more addition to the new station.
“We’re now going to push to get a carpark on this side for people who come from this area.”