No free travel for blind volunteer

COUNTRYLINK has been accused of discriminating against blind passengers by charging them a fee to travel on the XPT.

The charge puts it out of step with V/Line and other public transport providers that offer free passage to vision-impaired travellers across Australia.

CountryLink passengers receive just one free return trip every year, and are charged a half-price fare for subsequent trips.

Vision Australia wants CountryLink to end the charge so blind travellers can travel for free, no matter where they live.

Blind Wangaratta man Jim Dunn travels to Melbourne at least twice every week for his volunteer work with blind, intellectually disabled clients and has to take CountryLink’s XPT service to get there in time.

When V/Line was running the service during upgrades to the line it didn’t cost Mr Dunn anything, but since CountryLink has resumed its service he has had to pay a half-price fare.

That’s $23.65 for every trip.

Mr Dunn said the charge amounted to discrimination.

“I’d like to see them change their policy to bring them in line with the rest of the country,” he said.

Vision Australia’s policy and public affairs adviser Brandon Ah Tong said it was a long-standing practice of governments in Australia and many other parts of the world to offer free transport to the blind.

The intention is to allow those disadvantaged by being unable to drive to participate more easily in community activities.

In Victoria and NSW the 

vision-impaired travel pass allows card holders to travel for free on regional town buses and all metropolitan trains, trams and buses in Melbourne and Sydney.

Mr Ah Tong said that made CountryLink’s charging an anomaly.

“The question has to be asked: What is it that makes them so special? 

“Why should they be any different?” he said.

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