Metro Trains leaving wheelchairs behind thanks to broken doors

When travelling by train in Melbourne, anyone in a wheelchair or motorised scooter has to board at the first door of the first carriage – which presents some difficulties if that door happens to develop a fault.

I happened to spot another Metro Trains service with a defective front door the other week.

Alstom Comeng 697M in service with a set of defective front saloon doors

Again – anyone in a wheelchair would be unable to board.

Suburban train in service with a set of defective front saloon doors

Some background

On every type of suburban train in Melbourne, the section behind the driver’s cab is the wheelchair parking area.

Redesigned wheelchair area onboard Alstom Comeng 654M

At some stations the end of the platform has been raised to give step free access.

Raised platform surface at the west end of Flinders Street platform 1

This allows anything on wheels to roll onboard the train.

Step free access for wheelchairs at the down end of Box Hill platform 3

But at most locations on the network, the train driver has to get out of the cab, and deploy a portable ramp.

Train driver assists a scooter user board the train via the portable ramp

On the newer Siemens and X’Trapolis trains, the wheelchair ramp is located in a cupboard next to the front door of the carriage.

Wheelchair ramps now inside the carriage, one one each side at the cab end of each M car

But on the older Comeng trains, the driver has to carry the ramp from the cab to the front door, and then carry it back again.

Hence when the front door is defective, passengers in wheelchairs and mobility scooters can’t board the train:

  • fixed ramps at stations only line up with the front door,
  • there is no way to access the portable ramp except via the front door,
  • and finally, there is nowhere to park a wheelchair except for the doorway.

My only question – did the fault with the front door occur while the train was already in service, or picked up while the train was being prepared for the day?

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12 Responses to “Metro Trains leaving wheelchairs behind thanks to broken doors”

  1. Kevin says:

    Just what is the fault you are describing? It has been reported elsewhere (eg Daniel Bowen’s tweets) that some people do not know how to operate train doors.
    Also, people using wheelchairs do not “have to” board at the first door. If they feel comfortable boarding at other doors, and confident they will be able to disembark at the desired destination, then they could board at other doors. Some people using wheelchairs are able to mount small steps like a narrow gap between carriage and platform.
    Related to either or both of those two matters, drivers may be required to open doors for people with disability even if those people are able to otherwise enter or leave the carriage.
    No, it is NOT good enough that people using wheelchairs are said to be _required_ to use one door only.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      You are correct that not all passengers in wheelchairs require assistance – at my old station there was a regular commuter who was more than capable of wheeling himself onto the train and back out again, despite the platform gap and difference in floor height.

      However, this doesn’t mean that we can expect every passenger to do the same, just as the fact that I can run up stairs two at a time means that staircases could be twice as steep.

      • Kevin says:

        If there’s been any misunderstanding that I expect everybody to get on trains on other doors, then let me clear the air. I certainly was not saying that, but I emphasize again, IT IS WRONG and inappropriate to expect all people who identify as having a disability to use a specific option. I am glad you realize and acknowledge that such people can and do use other doors, but please be aware the language you use does not restrict those people.

  2. Philip says:

    Of course the drivers can’t possibly carry the ramp to the next door, can they? No, it’s much better to leave wheelchair-bound passengers to wait for the next train.

    • A driver says:

      Philip, if the ramp is in a cabinet in the first doorway, and that door is defective and cannot be opened, how do you expect the driver to be able to get to the ramp in the first place?

      • Philip says:

        Oh, I dunno, perhaps walk in through the middle door, get the ramp, bring it out and use it at the middle door. But the photo is of a Comeng train, where the ramp is with the driver anyway, so carry it an extra 10 m and use it.

      • Somebody says:

        Could you walk down to the 3rd car, and use the ramp from the doorway there? Sure it would delay the train, but that’s still better than leaving a disabled passenger behind.

    • Trainz says:

      my understanding is company policy dictates the ramp is only to be utilized on the first door, due to additional delays incurring from deployment on other doors ( walking times ). there is also the issue on siemens trains that there is no groove for the ramp to lock into on other doors aside from the doors behind the driving cab, hence a ramp could spin out from under the wheels and cause injury during boarding. Not forgetting that a defective door on a siemens or xtrapolis train would essentially lock the ramp in the cabinet anyway preventing it from being used on another door

  3. Louis says:

    The train in question was a Siemens train that had a clear indication that the door was faulty. As Kevin correctly states a wheelchair user can enter the train at any door. But, I’m in a motorised wheelchair, and like scooter users can only enter the train with the driver’s assistance. My frustration was not only that I couldn’t get on the train, but if I did get on using the opposite door, what would have happened at my destination if I couldn’t get out through the faulty door?
    A further fail for Metro trains are the raised platform humps to roll on/roll off at the station. They only line up with the Comeng trains. I still need the use of the ramp for the Siemens train.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Turns out I have a photo of said ‘Door out of order’ lights.

      'Door out of order' light illuminated onboard a Siemens train

      With the wider rollout of the raised platform ramps, I’ve noticed the same issue with the Siemens trains. Given they entered service just over a decade ago, it makes me wonder why the hell those in charge thought buying a train with a non-standard floor height was acceptable!

  4. Tom the first and best. says:

    In Brisbane they have guards in the middle of the trains who can put the ramps to middle end door on either half of the train. Double the wheelchair spaces and capacity to have some wheelchair access if a door fails. On the other hand that has significantly higher staffing costs and the middle of trains are usually fuller.

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