NGR train

Co-design Major Transport Projects Queensland – What is Co-design and what role does an Access Consultant have?

In 2018 the Forde Commission of Enquiry commenced following a complaint that the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) train, commissioned by the Queensland Government, was not accessible.

In 2018 the Forde Commission of Enquiry commenced following a complaint that the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) train, commissioned by the Queensland Government, was not accessible.

This complaint and the subsequent enquiry have triggered a cascade of events that have shaped how we now approach accessibility in transport in Queensland with improvements including:

  • upgrades to the NGR train, currently at 75%
  • a guide for Equivalent Access Assessment
  • a guide for design of Public Transport Conveyances and
  • establishment of Queensland Accessible Transport Advisory Council (QATAC)

More specifically, the project process now includes the requirement for the engagement of an access consultant on the project and early and ongoing genuine consultation with the disability sector.

Consequently, major transport projects in Queensland are now answerable to QATAC who will “provide strategic policy and accessibility advice on significant transport and infrastructure projects across the Queensland Government transport portfolio”.

To date, in Australia, there continues to be no legislated requirement for access consultants to be involved in transport projects. Premises and Infrastructure have some oversight by building surveyors in Part H2 in the NCC/BCA, however this does not cover all the elements of the Disability Standard for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (DSAPT). Conveyances, however, only have oversight by professionals with limited knowledge in accessibility and functionality.

The Forde Commission of Enquiry founded 24 recommendations of which the following three relate to the access consultant’s role in transport projects.

13: An accessibility compliance report be produced prior to the finalisation of the design process for public transport infrastructure

22: A plan for compliance with the disability legislation and functional requirements be developed at the start of major public transport procurement projects

23: An appropriate accessibility expert (an agency employee or a consultant) be formally engaged at the start of all procurement projects where the disability legislation will apply to goods or services procured, or the services subsequently provided by the goods procured

What is Co-design?

Co-design is different to consultation. Consultation is a process whereby relevant stakeholder views are sought but the decisions are made by others. Co-design is a process whereby relevant stakeholder views contribute not only to the thinking but also the making of decisions.1

‘Co-design’ is a versatile term with broad application across numerous disciplines, and names a participatory methodology used to create products, services and even policies, through a collaborative process in which groups of end-users work alongside technical experts to innovate solutions to design problems.

 In relation to the disability sphere, Co-design advocates for the greater inclusion and incorporation of people with a disability in the design of systems and policies affecting them. Co-design with people with disability entails additional challenges to ensure that the process itself is accessible to people who may have a variety of requirements to enable their full participation, which often entails additional planning and resourcing. 2

Co-design should involve a genuine commitment to power-sharing and be markedly different to previous ‘consultation’ practices.

With co-design becoming embedded into the design process from procurement to the final stage, the sharing of experience provides the basis for designers’ understanding to broaden the horizon and look to innovation to achieve these outcomes, without being bound by minimum standards.

The expectation has lifted across the industry in Queensland not just to comply with the DSAPT, but rather to extend expectation and achieve best practice accessibility and functionality outcomes for all users. With the vision of the new QTMP trains to be the most accessible trains in Australia leading into the Brisbane 2023 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we have seen firsthand the value of early and genuine engagement and the benefits it provides from working on these projects, for people with a disability and the whole community.

Architecture & Access is involved in the following projects co-designed with people with lived experience of disability:

Brisbane Metro Project

Brisbane Metro will link the city to the suburbs, making it easier to connect with people and places. The all-new metros will operate along dedicated busways from Eight Mile Plains to Roma Street, and Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital to University of Queensland with turn-up-and-go services, operating 24 hours on weekends – no timetables needed. 

This city-shaping project is fully funded in partnership with the Australian Government and will transform Brisbane’s public transport network. The fully electric high-capacity metros with enhanced accessibility features will provide more travel options with easy links to bus and train services, building new and improved infrastructure and using the best technology to suit our river city. 

Cross River Rail

Cross River Rail is a new 10.2 kilometre rail line from Dutton Park to Bowen Hills, which includes 5.9 kilometres of twin tunnels under the Brisbane River and the CBD. The Cross River Rail project encompasses four new inner city underground stations, upgrades to eight existing stations and three new stations on the Gold Coast line. Six existing stations on Brisbane’s southside will be rebuilt as part of the Cross River Rail project. Image: Members of Cross River Rails Accessibility Reference Group, Yeronga Station

Members of Cross River Rail's Accessibility Reference Group at Yeronga Station

Queensland Train Manufacturing Project (QTMP)

The Queensland Train Manufacturing Program will build 65 new six-car passenger trains at a purpose-built manufacturing facility at Torbanlea, in the Maryborough region. As part of the program a new rail facility will also be constructed at Ormeau, in the Gold Coast region. The QTMP will support South East Queensland’s population and economic growth, as well as Cross River Rail and the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.


  • Guidelines: Equivalent Access under the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport   2002 (Cth) | Australian Human Rights Commission, July 2020
  • New Generation Rollingstock Train Commission of Enquiry Final Report December 2018
  • Queensland Government Translink Public Transport Conveyance Manual January 2020
  • CRRDA Hopkins Centre Co- Design Toolkit, 2023 (not in publication)
  1. Page 5, Guide to Co-Design with people living with disability. PurpleOrange. (2021). files/7416/2510/1861/PO-CoDesign_Guide-Web-Accessible.pdf
  2. Guide to Co-Design with people living with disability. PurpleOrange. (2021).
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