NSW transport minister Andrew Constance has leapt at the chance to debate the new train fleet for the Blue Mountains following a Labor Party challenge.
Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle lodged a petition of more than 10,000 signatures in NSW Parliament on September 12, and issued a personal challenge to transport minister Andrew Constance to debate her on the floor of Parliament about the new intercity train fleet.
“Minister Constance has two months to prepare for this debate. He can finally stand up and account for the string of bad decisions which have led to this botched new train project,” Ms Doyle said.
“This project has been a disaster from day one when the then Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, announced that she would try to save a buck by buying new trains from ‘off-the-shelf’ in South Korea. Well, it seems neither she nor her successor, Andrew Constance, ever checked how wide the new trains will be, because it turns out they don’t actually fit the tracks,” Ms Doyle said.
But Mr Constance said he welcomed “the chance to debate the Labor Party on why they expect Blue Mountains customers to put up with substandard trains, some of which are more than 40 years old”.
“The new intercity fleet will replace ageing trains with the most accessible, comfortable and well equipped carriages NSW has seen.
“Our Blue Mountains customers deserve state of the art trains with full disability access, USB charging stations, bike racks, tray tables, extra legroom and superior air conditioning.”
Petitions with more than 10,000 signatures must be debated formally in Parliament, and the NSW Opposition has been collecting signatures in the Blue Mountains, Hunter and Central Coast regions where the new trains are destined to ply routes between Central station and the outer reaches of the Sydney Trains network.
The petition calls upon the government to rethink the project, return to the drawing board, and build new trains locally in New South Wales that fit the tracks and incorporate design elements such as reversible seating and carriage vestibules that customers demand for long distance commuting.
“We are calling on the Berejiklian Government to cancel this contract before it is too late. By the time of the next election when voters are given an opportunity to pass judgment on this incompetent government, the opportunity to fix these problems will have passed,” Ms Doyle added.
Planning and design work for modifications to the railway corridor are currently being finalised and works are expected to begin in 2018 and run for at least two years, requiring at least 10 trackwork closures that may last up to 12 days each.
In order to accommodate the new trains, which are 15cm too wide for the Blue Mountains line, all rail track between Springwood and Lithgow will have to be lifted up and relaid, platform edges and canopies will have to be shaved off, and the series of historic tunnels between Mount Victoria and Lithgow will need to be widened.
The petition will be debated on the final day of Parliament’s sitting calendar for 2017 on November 23.