Ward’s comments come as Business Sydney called for an overhaul of Sydney’s public transport system to improve safety and nighttime services.
The business lobby group launched its 10-point plan to boost women’s involvement in the overnight economy and also called for “extra-safe” train cars under police surveillance or close to train guards to improve the perception of safety and discourage anti-social behaviour.
With most night train services ending at midnight, the 10-point plan, co-written with consultants Urbis, said it was vital that alternative services such as night buses be widely promoted.
“Thought should also be given to reinstating night and early morning services for various modes of public transport to reflect Sydney’s position as a 24-hour global city,” the report said.
Released ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, Business Sydney’s 10-point plan outlines the ways public transport is preventing women from fully participating in the city’s nightlife.
“Transport services are limited, lighting may be poor and there may be no opportunities for passive surveillance when traveling to and from public transport,” the report said. “These services may also remain underused, leaving these groups feeling unsafe.”
There are over 800 emergency response points across Sydney’s rail network and 12,000 CCTV cameras at public transport stations, interchanges and car parks.
Paul Nicolaou, executive director of Business Sydney, said public transport was clearly a consideration in improving the perception of safety at night: strongly represented by women.”
Data from Transport for NSW shows that nine in ten women in Sydney feel unsafe in public areas at night and more than 60 per cent of girls in NSW who have experienced harassment will not walk or travel alone.
Night economy can ‘easily double’
Urbis regional director Princess Ventura said Sydney’s overnight economy could “easily double” to more than $7 billion if women were allowed full participation in it.
Ventura said she avoided places at night that were usually dark or poorly maintained, and that she didn’t stay out so late when she had to go home alone.
“For example, last night I had a work dinner from 7 to 9 p.m.,” she said. “While others, mostly men and interstate visitors who all stayed at the same hotel in the CBD, went out drinking afterwards, I took an Uber home because I didn’t feel comfortable going home later than 9pm.”
Ventura, on the other hand, traveled to Melbourne twice last year for work and “I was free to roam Melbourne’s CBD on my own until 10pm because I felt safe”.
The NSW government is spending $30 million on lighting, public art and landscaping to improve safety in parks, public places and around transport hubs under its Safer Cities program.
It is also working on projects at Westmead and Randwick hospitals “that increase the perception of safety for hospital staff, patients and visitors,” Ward said. “Nurses need to feel safe walking to the train station after a night shift.”
Yet security fears appear to be worsening, with a 2022 Plan International Australia report one in five young women felt less safe alone at night than before the COVID-19 pandemic – only 5 percent of women aged 18 to 24 felt safer in places such as streets, train stations and parks.
A 2022 report by the Night Time Industries Association on Sydney’s nightlife found that transport and safety were major barriers for young people, especially those living in the western, southern and northern suburbs.
In addition to public transport, Business Sydney wants more after-hours destinations to receive purple flag accreditation as safe and enjoyable places to visit after dark and better lighting and signage.
Nicolaou also called for a dramatic increase in the number of inner-city residents to 600,000 within 10 years.
“We know that women are more confident to participate in the nighttime economy when other people are present and this could be achieved by allowing more people who live in the city to live their lives day and night,” he said.
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