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Quadriplegic left on train

  • March 29, 2008
  • Bruce Bromley

By Heath Aston, Transport Reporter
July 14, 2007 12:00am

A QUADRIPLEGIC left stranded on a train for four hours without essential medication was told by CityRail staff he would be assisted in “two or three days”.

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Wheelchair-bound Mark McCauley suffered the humiliation of eventually being removed by construction workers using a forklift during the first Harbour Bridge train fiasco.

Quadriplegic and paraplegic advocates yesterday blasted CityRail for the shameful – and potentially life-threatening – treatment of Mr McCauley, a senior lecturer at the College of Law in St Leonards.

An internal investigation report, revealed by The Daily Telegraph yesterday, found CityRail has absolutely no procedures for the care of disabled passengers in emergencies. All other passengers in the March 14 incident were evacuated three hours earlier, leaving Mr McCauley alone without any advice about when he would be rescued.

“I started to get agitated because no one seemed to know I was stuck on the train and it was getting towards the time when I need my medication,” Mr McCauley told The Saturday Daily Telegraph.

“I rang CityRail and told the lady I was stuck . . . and at the end of the conversation she said ‘That’s fine sir, somebody will get back to you in two or three days’.

“I said ‘Don’t bother I’ll be dead by then.’ It was like she was a robot.”

Mr McCauley then called triple-0 and asked police to intervene. They arranged to have another CityRail manager call him back just before 8pm.

“She said we can’t get you off the train until we restore power – it could be in the early hours of the morning. I said to her ‘I’m a quadriplegic do you know what that means?’ She said yes but she clearly didn’t.”

It took construction workers at North Sydney station to volunteer to use a forklift to take Mr McCauley off the train just before 10pm – more than four hours after he boarded for the 15 minute journey to the city.

Mr McCauley said four letters to Premier Morris Iemma and Transport Minister John Watkins went unanswered. CityRail posted him two one-day free rail passes, which he described as a slap in the face.

Reeling from a week of rail shame, a contrite Mr Watkins last night said CityRail’s treatment of Mr McCauley was “completely unacceptable”.

“I’m disappointed we have not responded more formally to him and I will certainly write to him detailing the outcomes in the final report and the steps the Government is taking to prevent it happening again,” he said.

The Quadriplegic and Paraplegic Association of NSW last night demanded CityRail develop protocols to rescue people with mobility aids and other disabilities.

“What would they do in the event of a terrorist attack?,” ParaQuad chief executive Max Bosotti said last night.