Murrays $15 CBR-SYD service under threat from Disability Lawsuit

By 17 October, 2010 31

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.

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31 Responses to Murrays $15 CBR-SYD service under threat from Disability Lawsuit
#1
A Noisy Noise Annoys2:55 pm, 17 Oct 10

Typical of selfish litigants in this politically correct age. Just because a private business which offers a cheap, popular service for the overwhelming majority won’t bend over backwards to fulfil their demands they run off to the courts and jeopardise things for everybody else. Things have just gone too far with this “discrimination” crap. Looks like those of us who don’t have cars or who don’t want to pay exorbitant tolls and parking fines will be stranded in Canberra with Sydney out of our financial reach just because some selfish, arrogant female wants to preen her overblown, pneumatic ego.

#2
p13:23 pm, 17 Oct 10

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.

Don’t need a trailer, just hook the wheel chair to the back of the bus…

#3
Aenveigh4:00 pm, 17 Oct 10

Does Greyhound offer low-floor coaches to Sydney? If not, why are they not also named as respondents?
Does the DDA apply to private companies, or just state-run public transport companies?

#4
moneypenny26124:43 pm, 17 Oct 10

A Noisy Noise Annoys An Oyster said :

Looks like those of us who don’t have cars or who don’t want to pay exorbitant tolls and parking fines will be stranded in Canberra with Sydney out of our financial reach just because some selfish, arrogant female wants to preen her overblown, pneumatic ego.

Meanwhile those people in wheelchairs will be stranded in Canberra with Sydney out of their financial reach altogether… And you think that’s OK?

Wheelchair-friendly coaches have been around for some time now. And standards requiring bus companies to update their fleet over time were introduced nearly 10 years ago I think.

The Human Rights Commission can grant temporary exemptions under the Disability Discrimination Act if the cost of being disability friendly is too prohibitive for a service provider.

If large coach companies like Greyhound or Countrylink have to cop the cost of buying or converting buses over time, I don’t see why Murrays shouldn’t run a few wheelchair-friendly buses on one of their busiest routes. They don’t appear to have any special exemption.

#5
smpc5:16 pm, 17 Oct 10

I’m assuming this is a Disability Discrimination Act suit, in which case she’ll lose if Murrays can show that it would cause ‘unjustifiable hardship’ not to discriminate in this way. That includes the cost to them of not discriminating, as well as other factors like other assistance available to the disabled person and detriment to the community.

#6
bd845:30 pm, 17 Oct 10

While support for people with a disability is important, it is getting to the point of being ludicrous. People with a disability should understand that the world does not revolve around them just because they are disabled, society should not be made to change fully nor should there be any detrimental consequences for the rest of society because a tiny minority of the population wants something. There are still cost effective options for people with a disability to travel, I hope the court has some sense to chuck this case out.

#7
JC5:40 pm, 17 Oct 10

I like the Victorian idea of sending a car behind if a wheelchair books and wonder why it isn’t the norm? So long as the wheel chair passenger is charged the same amount then why not? No doubt it would be cheaper than having a fleet of wheelchair coaches (which are high floor due to luggage storage) or fitting them with lifts that would only get used occasionaly.

Indeed would think cars would be ideal for the city too, again so long as they are charged the same rate then I cannot see the issue and I reckon it would be cheaper for everyone.

#8
Captain RAAF6:17 pm, 17 Oct 10

Here we go again, dumbing down society so that a minority can have a go!

Maybe we should let all the cripples, sick and otherwise marginally useless into the Defence Force, Police Force, Fire Brigade etc so that they can have a fair go.

Your in a wheelchair, that sucks big time, but we can’t help you 100% of the time, maybe 90% but just not a hundred ok, it’s shitty but hey, life’s tough and tougher when your in a wheelchair, just accept it, live your life as best you can, don’t procreate whatever you do because we don’t want you weakening the gene pool but try and have fum, mmmkay!

Just don’t expect us able bodied folk to have crappier lives just so we can make you happy, aint gonna happen. No bus to Sydney for you, build a bridge, get over it.

#9
toriness7:15 pm, 17 Oct 10

as a genuine enquiry to those RAers who are disabled – what happens on a bus (or plane for that matter) if the disabled person needs to use the bathroom in-transit? i have never been on a plane and seen someone wheeled down the aisle to the bathrooms – not to mention the toilets in the planes (and i assume buses) are too small to put a wheelchair in? this is something i have never even contemplated before until this post but it must be as much an issue as getting on the bus in the first place? what about if there is a fire/emergency?

#10
Skidd Marx8:03 pm, 17 Oct 10

Some of the blame has to go to those filthy skanky “no win, no fee” lawyers who put ideas in the average person’s head.

#11
I-filed8:17 pm, 17 Oct 10

Murrays run cheap tickets Syd-Cbr and operate on a shoestring. I don’t want my ticket price to jump because poor old Murrays management – already having to compete with private cars – have to pay a fortune to upgrade for, what, a passenger a week if that? How about fellow passengers lend a hand in a friendly way and help carry wheel-chair bound people on board, and put the wheelchair in with the luggage?

#12
urchin8:53 pm, 17 Oct 10

A Noisy Noise Annoys An Oyster said :

Typical of selfish litigants in this politically correct age. Just because a private business which offers a cheap, popular service for the overwhelming majority won’t bend over backwards to fulfil their demands they run off to the courts and jeopardise things for everybody else. Things have just gone too far with this “discrimination” crap. /quote]

yeah, i mean, just because it’s the law why should they have to obey it. sheesh… seriously the nerve of people asking that the law actually be obeyed. it’s just discrimination “crap”. why don’t these cripples just grow new legs and get over it. instead they want businesses to do what the democratically elected government decided businesses should do. how dare they…

#13
Skidbladnir8:58 am, 18 Oct 10

Settle out of court, shut this woman up, commit to buying the required number of compliant buses in future, and start to charge slightly more now to pay for the future outlay.
Yes, they were caught operating outside the law, its easy to undercut on price when you don’t have compliance worries.

But the instant outlay to retrofit a decaying fleet cater to the tiny percentage of wheelchair-disabled who want discount travel Canberra-Sydney and want the extra service without any mechanism for paying doesn’t gel.

(Or if not paying for a retrofit means we provide Greyhound a monopoly, we could take some money out of the overflowing Art Fund and turn it into a support grant to upgrade coaches. I mean, we already have to upgrade ACTION buses to disability standards thanks to that Auditor’s report…)

#14
JessP9:01 am, 18 Oct 10

Sorry Wheel chair bound person. Sorry you are wheel chair bound. Sorry the bus doesnt allow for you to travel on it.

How about if we all kick in the $60 to travel on the ‘wheel chair accessible’ Country Link train and you leave the buses for the rest of us?

#15
p19:11 am, 18 Oct 10

Does anyone know how the courts decide what is a reasonable case? I’m just wondering how they define the difference between a company that provides coach service and one the provides, say, motorcycle tours, or jetski rides, or bungie jumping, or powerwalking lessons, or morris dancing, or….

The assumption that buses should be wheelchair accessible, buy that rides on Harley Davidsons don’t need to be (while obvious to common sense) would seem to be very arbitrary from a legal sense.

#16
Skidbladnir9:52 am, 18 Oct 10

p1 said :

Does anyone know how the courts decide what is a reasonable case? I’m just wondering how they define the difference between a company that provides coach service and one the provides, say, motorcycle tours, or jetski rides, or bungie jumping, or powerwalking lessons, or morris dancing, or….

The assumption that buses should be wheelchair accessible, buy that rides on Harley Davidsons don’t need to be (while obvious to common sense) would seem to be very arbitrary from a legal sense.

Not really, there’s the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (which are administered by the Federal Attorney-General’s Department) and states in Sections

1.4 Application of Standards
(1) These Standards apply to the widest possible range of people with
disabilities as defined by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
(2) These Standards apply to all operators and the conveyances they use to
provide public transport services. They also apply to providers and
supporting premises and infrastructure

1.12 Conveyance

(1) A conveyance includes any of the following, to the extent that they are used
to provide a public transport service:
(a) aircraft;
(b) buses or coaches;
(c) ferries;
(d) taxis;
(e) trains, trams, light rail, monorails, rack railways;
(f) any other rolling stock, vehicle or vessel classified as public transport
within its jurisdiction by regulation or administrative action of any
Government in Australia.
(2) A conveyance does not include the following:
(a) charter boats (including water taxis);
(b) limousines (including chauffeured hire cars);
(c) self-drive rental cars.

1.20 Operator
(1) An operator is a person or organisation (including the staff of the
organisation) that provides a public transport service to the public or to
sections of the public.
(2) A public transport service may have more than one operator.

ie: if you charter it (motorcycle tours), its for private purpose (powerwalking or horseriding lessons) or its otherwise not being used for transportation purposes (skydiving), then it is by definition ‘not public’.

#17
smpc10:08 am, 18 Oct 10

p1 said :

Does anyone know how the courts decide what is a reasonable case? I’m just wondering how they define the difference between a company that provides coach service and one the provides, say, motorcycle tours, or jetski rides, or bungie jumping, or powerwalking lessons, or morris dancing, or….

The assumption that buses should be wheelchair accessible, buy that rides on Harley Davidsons don’t need to be (while obvious to common sense) would seem to be very arbitrary from a legal sense.

Your question is actually about the applicability of the law rather than how the courts decide cases, and it’s more or less been answered for you above. A Harley Davidson is private transport; a bus is not. Simply put, and over-generalising, the Disability Discrimination Act does not apply to most private transport or venues, while it certainly does to public premises and services.

#18
buzz81910:09 am, 18 Oct 10

While I understand this ladies angst at the whole ordeal. This is just a question, but don’t people who are disabled in the ACT get concession cards? As in, they would get quite a bit of a concession when travelling on the Countrylink? Thats just what I assumed??

#19
Hells_Bells7410:21 am, 18 Oct 10

If the writing is on the wall. Then it is up to them (Murray’s) to be providing reasons as to why they are blatently not following along. Well only certainly if the notarised public is asking.

If they think they should be exempt, then they need to be jumping up and down themselves. I doubt they would get far. That’s what they’re afraid of and I’m afraid that’s just not right.

Murray’s just got the proverbial kick up the arse! If this threatens their service then they don’t deserve to have it. There’s always someone who could find a good business model within the legislation, surely.

#20
p111:44 am, 18 Oct 10

Ahh, so apart from the fact that which vehicles are covered is explicitly defined, it is the “public transport” part that defines which rule you have to follow.

While I think it will be a shame if prices go up (and it is up to Murray’s to argue their case not to comply), I am generally glad I like in country where if you want provide a service to the public, you should at least try to make it available to all.

Especially if they have had ten years to comply, as someone stated.

#21
Hells_Bells741:59 pm, 18 Oct 10

buzz – Last time (only time even) I booked travel using a PCC through Countrylink office in Civic, when I was on the Pension it lead me to the Jolimont Centre to take a coach, not Kingston Railway. It also cost $22.00 or something like that.

Health care cards I’m not sure what they get. Usually not much.

#22
Hells_Bells742:03 pm, 18 Oct 10

Maybe it wasn’t that high, but whatever I had to pay caught me offguard as it used to be free within the NSW.

#23
Muttsybignuts3:12 pm, 18 Oct 10

Does anyone else think Captain RAAF is a tool?

#24
Skidbladnir4:00 pm, 18 Oct 10

p1 said :

Ahh, so apart from the fact that which vehicles are covered is explicitly defined, it is the “public transport” part that defines which rule you have to follow.

Well, I left out the other definitions and statements (ie: of ‘public transportation service’ and ‘providers’) mostly because the entirety of the Standards and the specifications required are there in the linked document.
The details of the Standards are exceedingly dull for anybody without an interest in disability policy, but they do actually include a timetable for compliance on bound parties.

Basically, by 2007 coaches should have had 25% compliance. By 2012 they should have 55% compliance, by 2017 90% compliance, and by 2022 they need 100% compliance.

#25
colourful sydney rac4:11 pm, 18 Oct 10

Muttsybignuts said :

Does anyone else think Captain RAAF is a tool?

Does anybody think he isn’t?

We all know that he would not spout his views in person and can only do it, very bravely, in an internet forum.

#26
farnarkler6:19 pm, 18 Oct 10

Murrays should get some legal counsel from Brindabella airlines. According to their website, they’re exempt from having to take wheelchair bound passengers.

#27
I-filed6:58 pm, 18 Oct 10

I know I’m not referring to this particular woman, but as an aside, I do know that the ACT Government run very generous programs, such as air travel for disabled people to travel to medical appointments. I am acquainted with a hypochondriac who has pleaded for (and got) air tickets to and from Sydney to see a specialist three or four times, on the grounds that she “couldn’t cope” with sitting on a bus for four hours. Six weeks after the second appointment she was FINE to sit in a car for hours at a stretch on holiday in Queensland, doing the rounds of various “spiritual” retreats … then back to “can’t sit” for the next specialist appointment. People wanting concessions etc from the government should be very careful to play a straight bat and be reasonable.

#28
MrPC8:22 pm, 18 Oct 10

As fas as I know, the Disability Discrimination Act only covers public transport servces. For bus and coach operators, that is arguably interpreted as buses on Motor Ombibus number plates (MO plates). Murrays run their services on TV (Tourist Vehicle) plates, not MO plates.

Greyhound runs on MO plates, so they clearly have to comply.

The question here is more whether Murrays scheduled services to Sydney constitute public transport, and whether they are misusing their TV plates. If they are misusing them, then the DDA applies. If they are operating a small side business to a much larger tour bus business (which they arguably are), then the DDA arguably wouldn’t apply.

#29
Pandy8:41 pm, 18 Oct 10

So by 2022 100% of all taxis in Australia will be wheelchair compliant? What about the train and tram fleets around the country? Think not.

I just wonder if some of the people writing these laws up are pin heads?

#30
el9:06 pm, 18 Oct 10

Muttsybignuts said :

Does anyone else think Captain RAAF is a tool?

colourful sydney racing identity said :

Does anybody think he isn’t?

Obvious troll is obvious?

Could Murray’s not negotiate a deal with Countrylink for cheap train fares for ‘referred’ wheelchair passengers? Both companies win by not looking like arseholes, and wheelchair-bound passengers win by getting to travel on the much more comfortable trains at the same (cheap) price.

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