Budget boost to regional rail good news but co-ordination and communication must improve
The Andrew’s government’s $1.45 billion investment in the state’s rural rail network is good news but must also include improvements in connecting services, accessibility and information, the state’s peak body for older Victorians said today.
COTA Victoria CEO, Ronda Held, said the government’s Budget announcement that the government would invest in extra regional services and rail upgrades in areas such as Gippsland, Warrnambool, the Surf Coast, Bendigo and Echuca would improve a vital lifeline for older Victorians in regional areas.
However she said more needed to be done to prepare for how the state will support its ageing population through proper integration of transport models such as community transport, transport assistance, accessibility and information about local transport networks in these centres.
“Access is essential for making sure older people can get to critical medical appointments, so simple things like get to the shops and stay connected to their local communities as they get older. In many cases it is quite literally a lifeline,” Ms Held said.
“We speak to older Victorians every day who say that a lack of access to transport is one of their biggest concerns, particularly in regional areas. Currently people are turning up to stations in areas such as Gippsland and crossing their fingers that it’s an accessible service. This really needs to change.
“It’s not just a matter of investing in track upgrades or new faster services. We also need to make sure that there are proper connecting services and that there is easy to understand information available about issues such as platform access and whether a service is suitable for someone with mobility issues.
Ms Held said access to transport was critical preventing isolation, maintaining longer term health and wellbeing for older people, and allowing them to stay at home for longer.
Ms Held said the need for more flexible, accessible and affordable transport options for older people in regional areas is one of four priority areas needing action by the state and local governments over the next 12 months.
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