Labor's Oscar train attack backfires

Mountains commuters are being shortchanged, says opposition transport spokeswoman Penny Sharpe.

Ms Sharpe met with Labor’s Blue Mountains spokesperson Trish Doyle at Springwood station on Monday, to discuss the lack of newer trains called “Oscars” on the network. The seven-year-old Oscars [Outer Suburban Cars] were infrequent on the Mountains network and commuters were instead being forced to ride “V-Sets” which could be up to 42 years old and were not as safe, said Ms Sharpe.

“No Oscars go past Springwood and there seems to be fewer that are coming up here under the new timetable,” she said.

But Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage was appalled by Ms Sharpe’s claims about the Oscars as the trains were developed under the Labor government.

“It is nothing short of appalling that the opposition transport spokeswoman seems completely ignorant of the complete mess she and her Labor colleagues made of the train network.

“Had she done this [some basic research] she would be aware that Oscar trains have never run on the Upper Blue Mountains line since they were introduced by Labor, as the carriages are too wide for two services to safely pass each other. This is the sort of poor planning and neglect for the Blue Mountains we came to expect under Labor.”

Mrs Sharpe said the V-Sets were “between 25 and 42 years old” while the Oscars had “better accessibility including portable boarding ramps, fold-up seats to give room for people in wheelchairs and prams and also doors that automatically open”.

But Mrs Sage said “Blue Mountains commuters have told me more often than I can remember of their fondness for the comfortable V-Set carriages servicing the entire length of the Blue Mountains line. That is why the government made the decision to refresh the entire 200-strong Intercity V-Set fleet, so commuters can continue to enjoy their preferred carriages.”

Ms Sharpe said the real issue was “the plans beyond Springwood for the Blue Mountains line”.

“There are issues with the overhead maintenance of the wires, there are fewer cars running in the afternoon, there’s the huge gap at the top of the Mountains,” she said. “What is the plan for Blue Mountains commuting when, over time, you will have these trains that won’t be able to run anymore [due to issues with accessing the tunnels]?”

Safety and security were also issues. The newer trains were stocked with “security cameras and help points in every carriage” and were “better able to absorb the impact of a collision”, she said.

Ms Sharpe said a Freedom of Information request she made last year showed there had been a 25 per cent jump in complaints (mostly relating to cleanliness) and last financial year the Blue Mountains was the third most complained about line on the network of 19 lines, after the Central Coast and the western line. 

Ms Doyle said she had also received “hundreds” of complaints about the new timetable and people were calling for restoration of some services.

A public transport community forum will be held this Saturday, February 15 from 2.30pm to 4.30pm at the Mid Mountains Neighbourhood Centre in Lawson. The forum will look at changes introduced with the new timetable, released in October last year. The forum will be opened by NSW Opposition leader John Robertson with speakers including commuter spokesman Michael Paag, Judy Finch (author of the Mind the Gap report), Suzan Mehmet (Mid Mountains Neighbourhood Centre) and Westmead health worker, Wendy Edmonds.

Of the forum, Mrs Sage said, “Labor is renowned for talking about transport — they did nothing but talk for 16 years while the train system fell apart around them”.

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