Editors Note: Wheelchair ramps may help wheelchair users but only if the tram drivers can be bothered waiting to use them and assisting when required. In the past some drivers have been unwilling and just driven off.
Boarding ramps will be trialled on Melbourne’s new E-Class trams to bridge an excessive step height at super stop platforms that prevents some wheelchair passengers safely entering the tram.
The height difference between platforms and tram floors is big enough to have put the Victorian government in breach of national disability discrimination laws, a problem that was identified before E-Class trams were first ordered in 2010, but has never been fixed.
It means some passengers in wheelchairs cannot easily board Melbourne’s newest low-floor trams, even at hundreds of tram stops that have been specifically rebuilt to provide easy access.
Under Australia’s disability discrimination act, the step height between trams and tram platforms must not exceed 12 millimetres. Melbourne is progressively replacing its entire tram fleet and rebuilding all tram stops to meet the act.
Even so, the former Brumby government decided when it ordered the first batch of 50 E-Class trams six years ago to disregard this standard.
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A Department of Transport briefing from September 2010 advised that the 12mm step height “is not feasible and should not be actively pursued”, because it would impact on delivery times, reliability and maintenance needs.
The briefing also advised that an early plan to fit wheelchair lifts to E-Class trams had been scrapped, however, the lifts could be retrofitted.
The height difference between E-Class trams and Melbourne’s tram platforms is discriminatory under Commonwealth law.
Instead this year, under a trial proposed by Yarra Trams, manual ramps…