The Legislative Committee on Community Services recently released the report from its’ inquiry into ‘access to transport for seniors and disadvantaged people in rural and regional NSW’.
NCOSS made a formal submission to the inquiry, and participated in public hearings in support of our submission.
Overall NCOSS is pleased to see that the final report recognises the crucial enabling role of transport, and that inadequate or non-existent transport in many rural and regional areas of NSW is a significant cause of disadvantage for many people living in those communities.
The report makes a number of recommendations that reflect the strong voices of regional communities, as well as input from organisations such as NCOSS. We were particularly pleased to see that the final report made the following recommendations, including;
- That subject to evaluation, the ‘Driving change’ programme helping Aboriginal people in rural communities to learn to drive and get their licences, be extended across the state.
- That Transport for NSW create, publish and update a comprehensive schedule for the accessibility upgrade of all bus and train station infrastructure.
- That Regional Managers work with local communities to better co-ordinate transport resources and services, to ensure that they are better utilised to deliver what the community needs, with their success evaluated in 2 years.
- That the introduction of the NDIS be monitored to ensure that it does not leave people with disability in rural and regional NSW further disadvantaged by a lack of access to transport
- That Transport for NSW report back to the committee in October 2018 regarding progress on implementing the reports’ recommendations.
The report contains a number of strong findings and positive recommendations, and largely reflects the experience and input of local communities and those organisations representing their interest. However, NCOSS does have a number of concerns about issues which were not addressed in the report, areas where the identification of important issues are not reflected with recommendations, and issues where the input of department representatives has been favoured over that of community and service organisations.
NCOSS is concerned that, the introduction of on-demand and more flexible transport services will come at the expense of the important backbone of regular timetabled services, and that the report does not sufficiently recognise the need for a range of transport options to be retained.
Similarly, while the report recognises that information regarding transport services will need to continue to be provided through different means, including online, paper and in person, there is not sufficient recognition of the internet and phone connectivity issues that affect many areas of the state.
Importantly, while the need for properly resourced and trained staff to be available at all rural train stations and major bus stops was recognised, along with the multiple community, service and safety roles they play, the report makes no recommendation to guarantee the availability of staff.
NCOSS welcomes the report, and the potential it has to improve access and accessibility of transport for people in rural and regional NSW.