Thursday, May 8, 2014

Gladys Berekjilian announces new intercity train set. So here are our concerns

Gladys Berejiklian announces the new trains with the NSW Premier, Mike Baird & NSW TrainLink Manager Rob Mason. Photo: Fairfax Media

The Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, yesterday announced that NSW TrainLink will be getting 520 new intercity carriages to replace the ageing V set intercity sets that are reaching their life expectance/service period.

Aunty Gladys has stated that these new carriages will be from existing “on the shelf” trains that could be potentially built overseas and not in Australia. The one issue I would like to point out that whilst that would mean that it could be built much more cheaply overseas, the problem is that with the current A Set or Waratah train sets, they have had many defaults which have required fixing and in some cases where work completed on the frames of these train sets had to be fixed via complete replacement of areas to ensure that they complied with state and federal building and safety regulations.

So it begs the question, why would we consider having off the shelf trains built overseas where they could possibly not meet manufacturing, building and safety regulations and laws and then possibly having rectification work completed at an additional cost after they have been brought here?

This to me sounds like a major oversight, but then again when we are dealing with Queen of all that is stupid, Gladys Berejiklian, it doesn’t honestly surprise me sadly.

However there are more unanswered questions regarding this new procurement of the train sets, with the main being are people with disabilities and their relevant organisations get any word or at east some consultation on what we know is needed to ensure that these train sets meet specifications and disabled customer requirements.

Its one thing to just add wheelchair spots, add automatic voice announcements and have passenger information displays, but there is more that would need to be taken into consideration, such as:

  • Would the train sets be step free and be equal with all platforms?
  • Will the guard be at the end of the train sets and if so, how many carriages would form each complete train set (4, 6 or 8)?
  • Will the train sets be single deck or double deck?
  • Will confirmation of wheelchair accessible disabled toilet be included?
  • How many disabled spots be in each complete train set?

What is even more ludicrous is the consideration by the transport minister to have 1st class areas/seating on the train sets which would replicate what train companies offer in the UK, however to me it just sounds like an additional source of revenue and excuse to charge customers more for just priority seating which would be made from the same materials as “economy” or the “everyday” seats which are found throughout the remainder of the train set.

I would like to point out at this stage that I despise this idea of a 1st class system as I can see big problems with this system causing further frustration and issues for NSW TrainLink staff both on board the train sets but also the stations. I also find this system as a way of ensuring Aunty Gladys gets a place to call her own and not be in the muck of the everyday commuter she claims she works for.

Basically in a nutshell, whilst I applaud Gladys on announcing the plan to procure new intercity train sets and move the Oscar trains into the Sydney Trains fleet, but if I am being honest, this is something Gladys could have announced 2 years ago or even last year when she split RailCorp into their current iterations - Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink.

It would also be a timely reminder that this comes upon the new premier being put into office but also because we are in election mode, with the NSW State Government elections due between August this year and March next year.

We can hope that this process is expedited but proper consultation occurs with all relevant stakeholders but also with the relevant commuters who will use the new train sets like us disabled commuters to ensure our voice is heard.

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