Labor launches petition against botched train project

Opposition transport and infrastructure spokeswoman Jodi McKay with Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle in Springwood.
Opposition transport and infrastructure spokeswoman Jodi McKay with Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle in Springwood.

A Labor petition is being circulated by post to residents in the Blue Mountains and Hunter regions this month complaining about the new trains set for these regions, and arguing they need to be “fit for purpose” instead of an “off the shelf” model.

Opposition transport and infrastructure spokeswoman Jodi McKay joined Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle in Springwood earlier this month to launch the petition against the Berejiklian Liberal government’s project. The pair called it a “botched” project that will see “more than 1200 jobs off-shored to South Korea, and a new train that doesn’t fit the tracks in the Blue Mountains”.

But a Government MP welcomed the petition, saying it would expose Labor’s inaction on upgrading the transport network when in office.

In her former role as Minister for Transport, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, launched the procurement process for a new Intercity Fleet in 2013 by announcing she would buy a new train off-the-shelf from overseas, to reduce the cost of designing and developing a new train in Australia from scratch.

Unlike the current V-Set trains on the outer urban and intercity routes, the trains will have fixed seating meaning 50 per cent of passengers will face the wrong way.

Ms Doyle said the trains were also being built without a vestibule, exposing seated passengers to cold temperatures during winter as doors open at stations between Lithgow and Wentworth Falls where temperatures were regularly below freezing.

“It has to be fit-for-purpose, and the concept plans they’ve published show this new train will be completely inadequate for long distance commuting,” she added.

“I have been overwhelmed by the level of community interest in this new train project,” Ms Doyle said. “People are not just concerned about the silliness of buying a train that doesn’t fit the tracks, they are also concerned about the comfort and ergonomics of a train that they will need to travel on for hours at a time, every day of the week.

“The government claimed these new trains will be 25 per cent cheaper than a locally designed and built train, but they can’t put their finger on what it will cost to widen the tracks and tunnels to make them fit”, Ms McKay said.

Ms McKay said once they get 10,000 signatures for the petition following the mail-out which started on April 16, the government would have to “front up to a debate in Parliament”.

“They will finally have to put on the record their justification for these decisions,” she said.

Liberal Party Member of the Legislative Council and Katoomba resident Shayne Mallard said he welcomed a debate about the subject.

“Bring on the debate because it will expose that Trish Doyle and Labor are running from the fact that in 16 years of government they failed to deliver modern trains to the commuters of the Blue Mountains and failed to upgrade the Blue Mountains rail lines to take the new generation of trains,” Mr Mallard said.

“Only the Liberal government is delivering modern state of the art trains to the Blue Mountains commuters.”