Five Illawarra stations were ranked higher than Unanderra when it came to station upgrades, according to an Auditor-General's report.
However, a Transport for NSW (TfNSW) spokesman said the ranking list in the report was calculated in the early stages of assessment.
The Auditor-General’s office this week released its report into the effectiveness of the Transport Access Program, which ranks and allocates funds for station upgrades.
The report includes a list in order of “need rank” for every station, which is used to assess which projects to move forward with a business case.
On the Intercity Trains list Unanderra, which the government announced earlier this month will get lifts, is ranked ninth.
The Illawarra stations ahead of it and their rankings are Dapto (1), Coniston (3), Bellambi (5), Fairy Meadow (6) and Towradgi (7).
The presence of Dapto and Bellambi is a surprise, given both stations are at ground level, but the TfNSW spokesman said the nearby level crossings caused a problem.
“A level crossing used to access the ramp to Dapto station has been assessed as difficult for wheelchairs to negotiate,” the spokesman said.
“As a result of this, and when combined with other factors, Dapto has a higher need rank than Unanderra.”
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The spokesman said the “need rank” lists was not the final ranking.
“Potential upgrades are assessed using an eight-stage selection and prioritisation process, of which the ‘need rank’ is determined after the first two stages,” the spokesman said.
“An area’s demographics and future needs, the accessibility of nearby stations, and the impact of other projects are among the factors considered by this process.”
The report found the TfNSW criteria used to assess stations for upgrades was a “reasonable approach”.
“As part of the prioritisation process, Transport for NSW considered multiple scenarios based on inputs such as value for money, need and the the funding amount available,” the report stated.
However, the report also called for greater transparency in the ranking system - a strong criticism of the system from campaigners for lifts at Unanderra.
It recommended TfNSW publish a full list of upgrades planned for round three of the program, rather than on a project by project basis.
“Given the long time-frames associated with improving transport infrastructure, this information is important as it allows people to make informed decisions about where they live, work or study,” the report stated.