Yahoo7 news brings us the story of a woman who was refused travel on the Murrays service because none of their ‘coaches’ were low floor wheelchair accessible, nor did any have wheelchair lifts or some other provision for passengers in wheelchairs.
“(I want) people to realise that legislation is important and that it needs to be respected … and that people with disabilities have equal access to things,” Ms Haraksin said outside the court on Friday.
“People in the general community do not realise that everyday, people with disabilities still face quite a bit of discrimination.”
Never mind that, as far as I know, there aren’t any long distance coach services in this country that are wheelchair accessible. Those that claim they are are usually lying, according to someone I once spoke to in regional Victoria before V/Line started chartering accessible taxis to drive behind their scheduled coach whenever a booking was made on the coach by someone in a wheelchair. They used to (and in some cases still do) expect you to haul yourself on board up 7 stairs while the driver stows the wheelchair into the luggage bin under the coach.
In this case, Ms Haraksin, the woman bringing the lawsuit against Murrays, wants them to retrofit 25% of their coaches to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs, regardless of the cost. There would of course be a significant upfront cost (structural modifications aren’t cheap, to cut holes in the frame to allow a wide, high level door, plus enough mounting points to fit a hydraulic wheelchair lift at the door). There’d also be a significant ongoing cost (one wheelchair space = 4 seats removed on every service = remaining 48 seats must generate more revenue per seat to deliver the same return).
This would surely mean the end of the business model that gives Canberra to Sydney travellers $15 fares. They may even axe the service entirely and focus on their tour bus operations.
Greyhound would then no longer need to sell $20 fares to try and compete with Murrays.
Everyone would lose, even Ms Haraksin, who had announced she is not seeking any compensation.
The NSW bureaucrats that run Countrylink (who have continued to charge $45-60 fares to Sydney throughout most of the Murrays/Greyhound price war) must be rubbing their hands with glee. Their service has been accessible since the early 90s when the Xplorer railcars came in, and usually aren’t very full due to competition from Murrays and Greyhound (not to mention QANTAS and Virgin Blue).
Fortunately for Countrylink, as of earlier this year the connecting ACTION service from their station at Kingston (the 727 Redex) is 100% low floor. Most of the buses on the 980 weekend route are low floor as well.
As an aside, I sometimes wonder if the coach operators would consider building low floor trailers that can be hooked onto the back of their coaches whenever wheelchair reservations are made. It’d get around the economics of losing revenue seats, though there may be legislative barriers to their carrying passengers on board trailers that would need to be worked around, or worked through, or ignored.