Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle urges government to 'come clean' on cost of new train fleet

Member for Blue Mountains Trish Doyle has called on NSW transport minister Andrew Constance to “come clean on the true cost” of the new intercity train fleet due in 2019.

The government confirmed last month that modifications will be needed on the Blue Mountains line to fit the South Korean-built trains. But it has declined to elaborate on the cost or scope of this work.

Off the rails? Trains on the Blue Mountains line at Mount Victoria. Modifications to the line needed for the new train fleet are the centre of a political debate.

Off the rails? Trains on the Blue Mountains line at Mount Victoria. Modifications to the line needed for the new train fleet are the centre of a political debate.

Responding to Gazette questions about the estimated cost of the work, a Transport for NSW spokesman stated: “Modification work is subject to a tender process, and the budget will not be released to ensure taxpayers receive the best value for money.”

However, the spokesman said an allowance for the work had been made in the project budget.

In NSW Parliament on Tuesday, Trish Doyle called on the Parliament to direct the transport minister to outline precisely how much the rectification works will cost.

“I have been raising the South Korean trains’ incompatibility with the Blue Mountains line for over seven months now, and it’s clear that minister Constance doesn’t have a clue what is going on,” Ms Doyle said.

“There has been some considerable spin put on this so far by Transport NSW. They are promising to make the trains fit by shaving back platform edges, but the costly and time-consuming work they don’t want to talk about is in the widening of bridges, tunnels, cuttings and tight curves. That’s where the real money is going to need to be spent.”

Cost fears surround the rail tunnels between Bell and Lithgow. Known as the Ten Tunnels Deviation, they were built in 1905 to a pre-Federation standard that is too narrow for wide body trains such as the Waratah and Oscar trains on which the V-Set replacement train is to be based.

Mr Doyle said the minister is “afraid” to admit the problem.

“These trains don’t fit. Full stop. The government has bought trains that do not fit the tracks. I want to say it’s funny, but it’s a pretty sick joke at the expense of taxpayers, actually.

“Not only will they refuse to say how much it is going to cost, they cannot tell us how long it will take and how long the Blue Mountains line will be out of action while they do the work.”

In response to Ms Doyle’s attack, transport minister Andrew Constance raised an earlier call by public transport lobby group, EcoTransit Sydney, that the new trains might not operate beyond Mount Victoria – an issue not raised by Ms Doyle in her latest comments.

Mr Constance said these claims were “a bald-faced lie”. “The new intercity fleet will be able to operate along the entire Blue Mountains line to Lithgow.”