You know the feeling when you find a cheap read, only to find it’s a reprint of an old tale. That’s what I felt when reading the ABC report NSW inter-city train costs face blowout to make fleet fit tracks on Blue Mountains line. I was even more disturbed to hear the old news pedalled out as new on the Afternoon and Drive radio programs on ABC Radio Sydney.
The discussion on works required on the Blue Mountains line have been discussed many times, with much press in 2016. So, there is no news in the ABC report that the NSW Government “has discovered…will not fit the tracks in the Blue Mountains”.
The New Intercity Fleet (NIF) train project will deliver improved amenities including wider seats with arm rests and more space, dedicated space for luggage, prams, bicycles and wheelchairs. For that wider trains are required, and the decision was made to upgrade the Blue Mountains line to a wider loading gauge west of Springwood. It is great to know that we can move with the times and provide greater accessibility on public transport.
The current conditions west of Springwood do not meet Transport for NSW Asset Standards Authority (ASA) requirements. ASA is a body that has an external advisory group and external review panel. It was set up in 2013 to advise and formulate on requirements such as those requiring the accessibility requirements to the NIF.
The ABC report also suggests that having the trains made offshore has provided the need to upgrade the lines west of Springwood. In fact, OSCARS (H sets) which travel on the rest of the Intercity network, cannot travel west of Springwood. OSCARS were made locally in Victoria. Also, extensive tunnel modification was made in the 1970s for the introduction of the V Sets, another locally made train set.
The signalling and electrical modifications include many new features like Car Markers and Balises for Automatic Selective Door Operation across the electrified network. These features are required for modern accessible trains, no matter where they are made.
Overall, its not that the trains purchased for NIF do not fit. Its that any modern, accessible train that meets current standards will not fit.
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