New Intercity Fleet reach Lithgow after Blue Mountains Line upgrades

Testing of the New Intercity Fleet has seen the electric trains reach Lithgow, the first new electric train to do so since the final V-Set was introduced.

Until recently, newer regional electric trains such as the Oscar train sets and the Tangara fleet have not been able to travel past Springwood due to limitations on the line.

Tight bends and narrow tunnels mean that only Narrow Electric standard rollingstock have been able to travel west of Springwood, meaning V-Sets were the only regional trains to take passengers further.

Engineering works to widen the line and extend platforms mean that the new trains are now able to run to Lithgow, said Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole.

“This is such an exciting development for the thousands of customers who travel between the city and these areas, particularly for Lithgow customers because it has only been made possible due to upgrades on the Blue Mountains Line,” he said.

Running the trains to Lithgow is part of the testing of the New Intercity Fleet before they enter passenger service later this year. The trains will first travel on the Central Coast and Newcastle lines, before the Blue Mountains and South Coast lines.

“Over the next few months we’ll see more of these trains tested on the Blue Mountains Line, mostly at night and on weekends,” said Toole.

Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said the new trains had a number of upgraded features.

“Customers on the New Intercity Fleet will enjoy more spacious two-by-two seating, mobile device charging ports, modern heating and air conditioning, and dedicated spaces for luggage, prams and bicycles,” Constance said.

“Automatic Selective Door Operation, obstruction detection and traction interlocking are just some of the safety features on these new trains.”

Unions have expressed concerns about the operation of doors on the trains, with guards unable to open their doors before the rest of the train doors.

NSW government praised for resumption of services on Blue Mountains line

After fires forced the closure of the Blue Mountains line in late December and early January, limited services resumed between Mount Victoria and Lithgow on the evening of Monday, January 21.

Bushfires in the Blue Mountains area laid waste to a 25 kilometre stretch of railway, damaging signalling equipment and rail infrastructure. In early January services between Mount Victoria and Lithgow were expected to be closed for months, after being suspended since 19 December.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Paul Toole, highlighted that crews have been working on restoring services since the closure.

“Sydney Trains’ engineers have worked tirelessly to develop temporary systems that will allow us to restore rail connectivity and safely operate a limited number of freight trains from Monday evening and passenger trains from Tuesday 21 January,” he said.

“We recognise how important this rail connection is to passengers travelling to and from the west and to moving freight and we are doing everything possible to resume full services as soon as possible.”

Freight on Rail Group (FORG) of Australia chair Dean Dalla Valle, praised the NSW government for its swift resumption of services, noting that without the rail line, more freight had to be moved via roads.

“NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole MP and Sam Farraway MLC – both Bathurst boys – immediately understood the urgent need to restore rail freight services along the bushfire impacted section of track between Lithgow and Mount Victoria.”

The damage was so extensive that significant parts of the line will need to be wholly restored, said Toole.

“This will be a long recovery process as we are essentially rebuilding some parts of the operating system from scratch.”

Sydney Trains staff have removed over 300 trees and relaid kilometres of communication, electrical, and signal wiring.

Dalla Valle highlighted the nature of the NSW operator’s response.

“I’d also like to call out Sydney Trains Chief Executive Howard Collins OBE for rolling up his sleeves, quickly travelling to bushfire impacted zones to assess first-hand what needed to be done, and liaising closely with industry,” said Dalla Valle.

Schedules are still be altered to account for maintenance, said NSW TrainLink chief executive Pete Allaway.

“The first Bathurst Bullet, the Broken Hill XPLORER and most Dubbo XPT services will resume to a slightly altered timetable, with the remaining affected services to continue to be replaced by coaches and buses while repair work continues.”