Passenger Rail

Report raises concerns with NIF operating model

New Intercity Fleet (NIF)

An independent report has found fault with the operating model for the New Intercity Fleet (NIF).

The report, commissioned by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, (RTBU), finds that the proposed operating model is not as safe as current practices and does not address good practice in the industry for intercity operations.

“The operating procedures need further development and assessment to identify and mitigate the hazards identified,” the report, written by Klaus Clemens from RMAus notes.

A key concern of the report is the use of CCTV to determine whether it is safe for the train to leave the platform. Unlike the current intercity fleet, the guard will remain inside the train while doors are closing.

Under the new operating model, where the role of the guard is filled by a customer service guard, the driver, who operates the doors, will be able to view the platform via CCTV. Clemens writes that relying on CCTV over direct observation is a hazard.

In addition, Clemens highlights that by having the driver observe the train and platform via CCTV prior to departure conflicts with the driver’s instruction to manage the train by keeping a lookout on the track ahead, and this would be in conflict with network rules.

RTBU secretary Alex Claassens said the report confirmed the concerns of the union that the NIF is unsafe.

“I’ve written to the Premier warning her that the current operating system for these new trains is unsafe because it doesn’t allow train guards to properly monitor people in the moments before the train departs. The design of this train risks commuters falling through the gaps between the train and platform, resulting in injury or death.”

A Transport for NSW spokesperson said that the CCTV technology would enable safe operations.

“The CCTV technology will provide the driver and the customer service guard with a clear view of the entire platform in all conditions and platform configurations.

“The train is also equipped with sensitive door edges meaning doors will re-open automatically when an object is detected, and the train will not be able to move unless all of the doors are closed.”

Currently undergoing testing on the rail network, the NIF are expected to begin operating on the Newcastle and Central Coast Line by late 2020 or early 2021.

An independent review commissioned by Transport for NSW, known as the Metcalfe review, found that while the operating model is safe, some changes needed to be made to the operating model to prevent driver distraction. A follow-up review completed in September 2020 found that progress had been made on the recommendations of the original report.

Transport for NSW and NSW TrainLink are reviewing the findings of the Clemens report.