Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Transport Access Program

Alister at Waitara Railway Station

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Wahroonga) (19:24): Our role as members of Parliament representing our individual electorates is to make the lives of our constituents easier and better. One of the ways the previous Coalition Government made people's lives easier was through the money it allocated to the Transport Access Program to invest in important infrastructure upgrades to make public transport facilities more accessible, modern and secure. In a practical sense, this includes installing new lifts and associated access improvements. It can also extend to putting weather shades over platforms and providing greater access to parking. Every member of our community deserves to be able to access public transport. I fought hard to have every train station in the Wahroonga electorate upgraded to ensure everyone could access them.

Many of the train stations in my electorate are over 100 years old, so they had a lot of stairs, reminiscent of a different era. This prevented people with a disability, a pram or luggage, or seniors, from being able to safely and securely access the train station platforms. I am incredibly proud to have delivered, as part of the previous Coalition Government, much‑needed upgrades to the railway stations at Pymble, Wahroonga, Warrawee, Thornleigh, Normanhurst and Killara. Waitara train station was the final station in my electorate to receive an upgrade, and I was delighted to officially open it recently. The lifts provide greater accessibility to the train station platforms for those in wheelchairs, with prams and with luggage. The upgraded train station also features beautiful Indigenous artwork, which draws inspiration from our native flora.

But these upgrades are so much more than aesthetic uplifts. They have real impacts on real people. I had the pleasure of meeting a young man whose life had been dramatically impacted by train station upgrades in my electorate. In 2019 I met local high school student Chase Burch. Chase approached me at Warrawee railway station one day on his way to school. I was there campaigning for the State election. He has spina bifida. The condition impacts the spine, meaning he uses a wheelchair daily. Chase told me that the proposal to install lifts at the train stations in my electorate would profoundly change his life. He thanked me. He could not have known how much work was required to get the lifts, so I was extremely happy to meet him and receive that feedback. Chase told me that once the lifts were installed, it would mean he could get on a train to go to Gordon Library to study for his HSC with friends and that he could get a part‑time job at Rebel Sport and travel there by train. Getting a job gave Chase more financial freedom and he was able to build a bigger community of friends.

Recently I caught up with Chase and he told me that a lot of what he has achieved and accomplished is because of the lift at his local railway station. He says he would not have been able to build up his independence without it. Many seniors, parents with prams and others have said the same to me. Many of us take for granted being able to use public transport or other facilities. For people like Chase, a lot of thought needs to be put into how they get to different places. That is why programs like the Transport Access Program are so critical for governments to invest in, to ensure that every member of our community, regardless of their ability or age, can access critical services like public transport.

Stories like Chase's should remind every member in this Parliament that the decisions we make in this Chamber have a very real and direct impact on the people in our electorates. People like Chase should be at the forefront of our minds when we make decisions. They should be at the forefront of the Government's mind when it is allocating funds in the upcoming State budget. Where is the Government spending the public's money and whose life will it impact? The Government must continue to invest in making our State's public infrastructure more accessible and secure for our constituents. I thank Chase for sharing his story and for reminding me, and everyone in this Parliament, that we are here to make a real difference in people's lives, across the State.

The transformation of the railway stations in my electorate has been absolutely incredible. I have heard many stories of elderly and other people falling and injuring themselves on the large number of narrow, small stairs that are difficult to get up and down. So the option for people to use lifts if their level of mobility requires it has seriously improved people's lives. That is what we are here for, and I am very glad to remind the House of such matters.