How does the project meet the requirements of disability regulations and guidelines and what are the enhanced features beyond what Melbournians currently experience on our transport network?
As Victoria’s Big Build continues to deliver road and rail projects across the city and the state, its jewel in the crown will surely be the Melbourne Metro Tunnel (MMT) Project. A particular focus of the project is to deliver a major public transport infrastructure that provides accessibility and universal access for all.
The project consists of two 9 km long rail tunnels running from Kensington to South Yarra, and five new underground stations. Access to the five underground stations will have a huge impact on improving the public transport experience for visitors to the city, and to all Melburnians, as they move through inner Melbourne. The five underground stations are:
- Arden Station – part of a new suburb in the inner north-west
- Parkville – will provide direct access to major healthcare, research and education facilities
- State Library – located at the northern end of the CBD – will provide direct connection to Melbourne Central Station and suburbs
- Town Hall – located at the southern end of the CBD – will provide direct connection to Flinders Street Station, Federation Square and Melbourne Arts precinct
- Anzac – will provide connection to St Kilda Road precinct, The Shrine, and a major tram interchange
Architecture & Access started working on the MMT project in late 2017, and now, nearly six years later, tunneling has been completed and the stations are starting to take shape. Works to the public realm, where the new station development connects with street level have also commenced and will continue to progress across the next two years. The project is expected to open in 2025. Architecture & Access have worked closely with Cross Yarra Partnership, and with architects Hassell to deliver the project. Disability advocacy groups have also been consulted over the life of the project.
Architecture & Access have completed design reviews at each stage of the project design. Reviews have included assessing the design against regulatory benchmarks including DDA – The Disability Discrimination Act 1992; DSAPT – The Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (amend. 2010); DAPS – Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010; NCC/BCA – National Construction Code / Building Code of Australia; and the relevant Australian Standards.
As a major urban design project, new works interface with major open spaces across the CBD and inner Melbourne. The tunnels and five stations are located underground, with connection provided up to ground and street level. The connection at street level, and with existing infrastructure, is known as “the public realm.” A particular feature of the project is that the public realm has been inserted into the CBD, connecting existing inner suburban and CBD streetscapes with the new station infrastructure. The City Square, Federation Square, the iconic CBD laneways, University Square, and the St Kilda Road boulevard precinct and gardens are some of the major public spaces that will be able to be accessed via the MMT infrastructure. The project team have looked to handle this interface and the required level changes in a creative way that also provides enhanced, universal access for all users.
Ease of access has been provided for all users so that they can make their way to and from street level, concourse level, and platform level. Access is provided via banks of escalators and lifts and is supplemented with stair access in some instances. Lifts are located prominently at street entrances, at station concourses, and at platform level. Other than Arden Station, which is a box station with two street entries and one entry concourse, all stations have multiple stepless entrances across their precinct. For example, Town Hall will be able to be accessed from City Square, Swanston Street, opposite St Paul’s Cathedral, and from Federation Square.
All station concourses are protected from the weather, and although all are located below ground level (except Arden Station), they will be flooded with natural light. Concourses are all on one level and offer generous circulation for all users. Facilities include retail spaces, customer service, toilets, timetable information, and resting points. Any objects that abut the access paths such as poles, columns, rubbish bins and signage totems will have a finish that contrasts with the surrounding flooring to assist people with low vision.
At platform level, platform screen doors (PSDs) provide protection at the platform edge. Common to the rail experience in Europe and Japan, and as part of the new North West Metro rail project in Sydney, the PSDs will be a new, welcome feature for Melbourne public transport users. Each PSD door will be numbered with Braille & tactile signage, and will open only when the train pulls into the station and the train doors open. Customer help points (CHPs) are located centrally along the platforms and will provide timetable information and intercom assistance as required. Braille and tactile signage and hearing loops at the CHPs will assist users with disability. Tactile ground surface indicators will provide guidance for people with vision impairment to navigate across and along the platform, to connecting lifts and escalators and with the PSDs and the trains.
An integrated signage and wayfinding information strategy has been developed by HWW and Maynard, with input from Architecture & Access. The strategy provides clear, intuitive wayfinding across the five stations assisting users to navigate between street, concourse and platform levels. The wayfinding signage information looks to give passengers with disability independence and confidence in their ability to navigate safely and comfortably through the station environments.
As part of the project, warning tactile ground surface indicators (TGSIs) will alert users of approaching hazards at stairways, ramps, escalators, lifts, ticketing gate lines, railway and tram platforms, bus stops, pedestrian crossings at roads and bike paths. Directional TGSIs will assist in providing continual guidance across open squares and concourses, to station entrances, to accessible (wider) ticket gates, to stairs, escalators and lifts, to customer service counters (CSCs) and to customer help points (CHPs). As part of the wayfinding approach for the Project, continual guidance is provided from street level down to concourse and platform level, using shorelines and directional TGSIs.
At platform level, TGSIs connect the lifts, stairs and escalators with the PSDs and train doors. A continuous line of directional TGSIs 300mm deep will run parallel to the tracks, down the length of the platform. Compliant and consistent application is the key to assisting people by using TGSIs.
Image: Anzac Station, https://bigbuild.vic.gov.au/projects/metro-tunnel/stations/anzac/station-design
Sanitary facilities are provided at Concourse Level at each of the stations including gendered, ambulant and accessible toilets. The unisex accessible toilets include both left and right-handed configurations in each instance so people with better strength on one side of their body have a choice. The ambulant cubicles, located as part of the gendered facilities, provide a different support from the accessible toilet, including people with disability who are not mobilizing with a wheelchair, those using crutches, elderly patrons who may need support on both sides of body, and any users who may find the higher pan easier to use.
A Changing Places adult change facility is located on the unpaid section of the concourse at each of the five stations. These facilities enable people with high support needs to enjoy activities such as going to work, school or university, attending sporting or social and family events. A Changing Places Facility is configured differently to an accessible toilet as the needs are different. The facility includes an adjustable adult change table and a ceiling hoist which enables a person who cannot toilet themselves to tend to their personal needs. The additional circulation area allows a carer to provide assistance to the individual with special needs.
It has been hugely rewarding for Architecture & Access to be involved in the Melbourne Metro Tunnel Project. There have been plenty of challenges for the project team including application of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport (DSAPT) which was released in 2002 and references some superceded Australian Standards, integration of new rail infrastructure within a largely nineteenth century building and streetscape, road and footpath levels that cannot be altered, natural topography that includes steep grades that can be difficult for pedestrians to navigate, and anti-terrorism requirements that include vehicle mitigation devices.