A Letter to the NSW Premier and Transport Minister

On access to transport

Art by Robin Eames

Dear Premier,

My name is Theodore Tsolakis. I am writing to you regarding the notification published on the Transport NSW website announcing that the M10 bus route will be withdrawn.

I attend the University of Sydney. I am a second-year student, and I am blind. Independence is extremely important to me. To travel to the University of Sydney campus in Camperdown which I attend, I take the 397 bus, which departs very near to my home in Maroubra, and I change to the M10 at Maroubra Junction, which takes me the rest of the way to the university. My commute on this route is quite safe, simple and convenient. Currently, I do not need to walk to another stop when transitioning between the two buses. The M10 bus route is the only direct route to the University of Sydney from Maroubra. Until my classes were moved online in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my commute to university took a little over an hour.

Due to my disability, to learn this route I required and received extensive training from an Orientation and Mobility Specialist from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT covering travel by bus between my home and university, including learning about the various transportation options available to me. This training was funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), and cost several hundred dollars and occupied many training sessions. All of this training will become redundant because of the withdrawal of the M10 bus route. I will now need to receive more specialist orientation and mobility training from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT to learn about the new public transport options for travelling to university, requiring further NDIS funding.

A stable and consistent travel route is particularly important for a blind commuter. The current commute is usually between relatively quiet and uncrowded bus stops. When something changes or goes wrong, I often feel disoriented and anxious. I have experienced several instances of buses not stopping, even when the bus has vacant seats and I am clearly visible, and sometimes bus services do not appear to come at all. This makes it extremely difficult for me, and has on occasion extended the length of my commute by an hour if I cannot make a connection.

A commute from Maroubra to the University of Sydney without the M10 route would result in a longer journey, with me travelling into the CBD in Sydney or Railway Square. Both locations are extremely busy, and the connection to a bus to the university is not close to where I would alight the bus from Maroubra. I normally travel at peak times, so it is very likely that there will be many other passengers around me, which will make the process of locating the bus stop very challenging, and also difficult for bus drivers who may not see me when they are in a queue of buses lined up at a busy stop. Neither of these two options would provide me with a safe, reliable or time-effective alternative to my current commute. 

Unlike other students who have other travel options such as riding a bicycle to university, I am at the mercy of public transport.

The light rail is also not a viable option for me to travel to university as it would require three transfers in each direction. The light rail stop near Central Station is not close to the bus interchange from which I would catch a bus to university and would require me to cross busy, crowded roads. The design of the light rail stops does not seem to have been made with any thought to its accessibility for blind commuters—it is dangerous to cross to them since they are in the centre of the road; it is difficult to find the correct place to cross to reach the stop; and while crossing the tracks, my long white cane has caught in the grooves of the tracks. Prioritising the light rail above other modes of public transport negatively affects the sector of the population for whom public transport is essential. It is unfortunate that the introduction of a new mode of public transport will make Sydney’s public transport network less user-friendly for people such as me.

I would like to implore the Government to consider reinstating these bus routes as doing so would positively affect the options for people with disabilities for a safe and direct commute to their destinations and my commute to university. The termination of the M10 bus route will adversely affect the independence of my commute along with its safety, length and convenience.

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