Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle has called on the NSW Government to release suppressed documents about future plans for the rail service to Lithgow when the new intercity fleet is introduced on the Blue Mountains line in 2021.
Ms Doyle lodged a freedom of information request with Transport for NSW requesting any government documentation which considered the cutbacks of electric passenger services between Lithgow as a consequence of modifications needed for the new train carriages to fit through the narrow Ten Tunnels Deviation between Bell and Lithgow.
While the government’s response to the FOI request acknowledged the document exists, they have refused to release it citing cabinet-in-confidence protections and an “overriding public interest against disclosure”. Ms Doyle, who has been campaigning for the full details and costs of the new intercity fleet to be made public since November 2016, along with Labor’s transport spokeswoman Jodi McKay, slammed the government’s refusal to release the documents.
“A culture of secrecy pervades everything the NSW Liberal Government does,” she said.
“Every transport project on their books is mired in controversy and shrouded in secrecy. We want to know more about this shambolic train replacement plan and the potential costs and consequences of buying an overseas-built train that doesn’t actually fit.
“I have repeatedly been warned by railway workers and engineers that the costs of widening the tunnels to Lithgow will be prohibitive and that the government may kick the issue down the road until after the next election and then try to cancel the Lithgow service altogether citing these huge costs. This is why I want to see the hidden documents that consider just such a proposal”, she said.
“If the electric passenger service to Lithgow is cancelled it is highly likely the new marshalling yard being built at Mount Victoria as part of the rail corridor widening project would be used as the terminus for services operated by the new intercity fleet and stations west of Mount Victoria, including Bell, Zig Zag and Lithgow would have their commuter services cut back to just the twice daily diesel XPT service.”
A Transport for NSW spokesperson declined to comment on the release of the documents but did state the new intercity fleet would operate along the whole of the Blue Mountains Line to Lithgow.
“We have always been clear about our intention to modify the network to accommodate these new trains and to bring the Blue Mountains into line with the rest of the network,” the spokesperson said.
“The plans for modifications between Springwood and Lithgow, including the Ten Tunnels Deviation, were finalised and made available for the community to have their say during the public displays of the Review of Environmental Factors.
“The required planning approvals are now in place and a tender process is currently underway for the design and construction of the modification work to the Blue Mountains Line.
“The budget of the modification work is commercial in confidence to ensure taxpayers receive the best value for money.
“The new state-of-the-art trains will replace the ageing V-Sets to provide customers with a more comfortable and reliable journey.
“The trains will feature wider, more spacious seats with arm rests, charging facilities for mobile devices, two by two seating for extra room and comfort, dedicated spaces for luggage, prams, bicycles and wheelchairs, improved accessibility including accessible toilets, cup holders and tray tables, improved customer information through digital information screens and announcements, CCTV and help points, and modern air conditioning.”