First train arrives at Kangy Angy Maintenance Facility

The first train of the New Intercity Fleet has travelled to the Kangy Angy Maintenance facility on the NSW Central Coast from Sydney.

The journey is part of the testing phase of the new fleet of 55 10 car trains and is one of the first of many trips to the Central Coast that the fleet will make, said local member Adam Crouch.

“The Central Coast and Newcastle Line will be the first in NSW to benefit from the New Intercity Fleet, which will deliver safer, more accessible and comfortable journeys,” Crouch said.

“The 24-hour-run Kangy Angy Maintenance Facility was purpose-built for the New Intercity Fleet, where the trains will be washed, maintained and serviced. It is close to 500,000 square metres in size, has about six kilometres of electric rail lines, a new rail bridge and offices and amenities for staff.”

The maintenance facility was completed in late August and was constructed by John Holland. UGL Rail will operate the facility as part of the RailConnect consortium which has built and designed and will maintain the fleet.

There are currently the trains from the New Intercity Fleet that are undergoing testing ahead of a larger roll-out later in 2020. The Central Coast and Newcastle Line will be the first line to have the fleet introduced into passenger service.

The New Intercity Fleet replace the V-set trains and come with accessibility and comfort upgrades, said NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance.

“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.”

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said the trains are hoped to make public transport preferred for regional residents.

“These new trains are fully accessible for our less mobile customers, building upon our vision to help make public transport a first-choice option for people living in the regions,” said Toole.

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.

Berejiklian criticised for NSW train manufacturing comments

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been criticised for comments that local manufacturers of rollingstock are not up to scratch.

On Wednesday, August 26, Berejiklian said at a media conference, “Australia and New South Wales are not good at building trains, that’s why we have to purchase them.”

The comments drew immediate push back from the NSW Labor party, with deputy leader Yasmin Catley saying that NSW should be investing more in locally manufactured public transport vehicles.

“Instead of running down our local industries at press conferences, Gladys Berejiklian should be giving them the opportunity to build our new ferries and trains,” Catley said.

Minister for Transport Andrew Constance backed his leader’s comments, reportedly estimating the cost difference at 25 per cent more for locally manufactured trains, due to higher energy, labour, and raw material costs.

“I think most people know the car industry, the train industry, in terms of manufacturing here in Australia; we don’t have it, and there’s a reason for it,” said Constance.

Following these remarks, the NSW Labor leader, Jodi McKay announced that Labor would introduce a NSW Jobs First Bill, which would require tenderers on government contracts to support NSW jobs and industries.

The dispute has come as NSW puts the first of its second order of Chinese-manufactured Waratah Series 2 trains into service. The Korean-made New Intercity Fleet, which are replacing the Western Sydney-made V-Set and allowing the Newcastle-made H-Set to enter suburban service, are also in the early testing stage.

CEO of the Australasian Railway Association Caroline Wilkie said a national procurement process would enable locally-built trains to become more competitive with their overseas counterparts.

“The NSW Government’s procurement choices have eroded the manufacturing sector and make it harder for local operators to compete,” said Wilkie.

“Better coordination with their counterparts in other states and territories would see more trains manufactured locally and improve efficiencies and cost profiles across the life of the asset.”

Wilkie noted that only looking at the upfront cost of purchasing rollingstock ignored the cost of lifecycle support, and a whole of life cost approach should be taken.

In 2019, the Western Australia government signed an agreement with Alstom to manufacture 246 railcars in Bellevue, in eastern Perth. The contract will see at least 50 per cent of the railcars built locally and 30 years of maintenance. Announced in December 2019, the contract was $347 million under the $1.6 billion budget.

Wilkie said that with overseas trade and travel limited due to COVID-19, the value of local manufacturing was greater than ever.

“A nationally consistent procurement process would benefit both state government purchasers and the rail manufacturing industry itself,” she said.

“The NSW government says it is open to working with other state governments and industry to strengthen and standardise procurement processes – it’s now time for them to act.”

Construction work on NSW rail facilities pass major milestones

The new maintenance facility to serve NSW’s New Intercity Fleet (NIF) regional trains and utility relocation for the Parramatta Light Rail have been completed.

The maintenance facility, located at Kangy Angy on the NSW central coast, includes six kilometres of electric rail lines, spread across seven tracks at its widest point, as well as a rail bridge, access roads, offices and amenities.

Constructed by John Holland for Transport for NSW, the maintenance facility will be operated by UGL Rail as part of the RailConnect consortium which has built, designed, and will maintain the new fleet.

UGL is now hiring staff for the facility, said Minister for Transport Andrew Constance.

“The maintenance facility has created employment, skills development and business opportunities on the Central Coast during construction and that will all continue into operation,” he said.

Testing of the NIF fleet has begun in Australia on the Blue Mountains with three trains having arrived so far. A total fleet of 55 trains with 554 carriages will be delivered to NSW and maintained from the facility at Kangy Angy.

In Parramatta, work is continuing on the construction of the Parramatta Light Rail. A micro tunnelling machine is boring 10 metres a day under Church Street, in the Parramatta CBD, also known as Eat Street.

Program director Anand Thomas said that since February 2020, 300 utilities have been identified and relocated to allow for the streets to be prepared for the light rail line.

“The relocation of utilities in Eat Street, including high-voltage power cables that power the CBD, Sydney water mains, Jemena gas crossings, 500 metres of stormwater pipes and thousands of metres of conduit, is complete,” said Thomas.

“This is a major achievement that enables us to get on with the all-important job of building the network.”

Work to install street lights, tree pits, and drainage on Church Street is continuing ahead of the reopening of the street on November 1 for a three month period.

“From 1 November 2020, as part of our commitment to the community, construction on Eat Street will cease, hoardings will come down, outdoor dining will be temporarily restored and we will deliver activities and events to attract people to the CBD,” said Thomas.

KTK Australia denies forced labour allegations

Allegations that slave labour was used in the production of components used in a number of Australian rollingstock fleets have been strongly denied by KTK Australia.

In a statement, KTK Australia said that such allegations “are based on no official documents, interviews or testimony”.

The allegations stem from a US Department of Commerce blacklist that included KTK Australia’s parent company, KTK Group. The US Department of Commerce said that KTK Group was implicated in human rights violations such as the forced labour of Muslim minority groups from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

KTK Australia disputed the basis for these implications.

“KTK Group has never employed workers who are members of the Uyghur ethnic minority,” said the KTK Australia statement.

KTK Australia’s website lists its components as in use on a number of Australian rollingstock fleets. These include NSW’s New Intercity Fleet (NIF), and Sydney Metro, the X’Trapolis and High Capacity Metro Trains (HCMT) in Victoria, and Queensland’s Next Generation Rollingstock (NGR).

Bombardier, which manufactures the NGR fleet, said that it was closely looking into the allegations.

“Bombardier Transportation is aware of the recent action by the United States Commerce Department in relation to KTK Group Co. We are actively monitoring this new dynamic – impacting the transportation industry – and any effect this could have on our own supply chain, projects and products,” said a Bombardier Transportation spokesman.

In Bombardier’s Supplier Code of Conduct, which all suppliers must agree to, forced labour, modern slavery, and human trafficking are explicitly prohibited. The code outlines:

Bombardier will not engage in the use of forced or enslaved labour or human trafficking, nor will it tolerate their use at any level in its supply chains. Suppliers must not demand any work or service from any person under the menace of any penalty. For example, Suppliers’ employees must be free to leave work or terminate their employment with reasonable notice, and they are not required to surrender any government issued identification, passports or work permits as a condition of employment.

Alstom, which manufactures the Sydney Metro and X’Trapolis fleet, also prohibits forced labour in its supply chain. Its Ethics and Sustainable Development Charter requires that suppliers commit to the “elimination of all forms of illegal, forced or compulsory labour”.

A Victorian Department of Transport spokesperson said that it was assured that there is no evidence of forced labour in the supply chains of its rollingstock.

“We have asked our manufacturers to take additional steps to ensure the integrity of their supply chains, and we continue to monitor the situation and will consider further steps based on the outcomes of ongoing supply chain investigations.”

A Transport for NSW spokesperson highlighted that suppliers must comply with Australian laws covering subcontracting and reporting requirements.

“Transport for NSW also has rights to access and audit the supplier’s records and the materials, goods, workmanship or work methodology employed at any place where the supplier’s activities are being carried out.”

The NSW spokesperson said that the components in use on the NIF were from the French arm of KTK.

In a report published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), which is in part funded by the US State Department, KTK Group is named as one company that was involved in the transfer of Uyghurs out of Xinjiang. The report cites online news articles.

KTK Australia noted that the cited articles refer to non-Uyghur workers from Xinjiang constructing a playground in a city in Jiangsu province.

“KTK Group confirms that in 2018-19 it did employ a small number of workers from Xinjiang, who were not ethnically Uyghurs, all were properly employed and paid the same wage as all KTK other workers in the same positions,” the KTK Australia statement read.

The US Department of Commerce blacklist prohibits US companies from working with listed companies. KTK Group has no investments in the US and said the decision would not have a material impact on the business.

“KTK Group is a transparent company and we welcome any international customers to inspect our facilities and to audit our labour practices.”

New Intercity Fleet

Blue Mountains Line ready for New Intercity Fleet

Upgrades to the Blue Mountains line to prepare for the introduction of the New Intercity Fleet are finished.

The $75 million upgrades included changes to platforms and the rail corridor, including the Ten Tunnels Deviation. Electrification infrastructure was also upgraded to be consistent with the rest of the network.

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said that this would allow improved train services for the line.

“The Blue Mountains Line between Springwood and Lithgow has now been upgraded to a more consistent standard to match the rest of the electrified network, meaning the new trains can now run all the way to Lithgow,” he said.

“These upgrades will pave the way for the new fleet to provide better connections to places and opportunities for employment, education, business and enjoyment.”

The New Intercity Fleet will first begin running on the Central Coast and Newcastle line later in 2020, before being introduced to the Blue Mountains line and South Coast line. Testing will soon begin to Katoomba and then to Lithgow.

The new trains will improve customer comfort, said Minister for Regional Transport Paul Toole.

“Customers can expect more spacious seating, mobile device charging ports, modern heating and air conditioning and dedicated spaces for wheelchairs, luggage, prams and bicycles.”

The introduction of the New Intercity Fleet has been criticised, both for the need to upgrade stations to fit the new trains, as well as safety concerns raised by guards, with the RTBU refusing to staff the trains.

Contracts announced for More Trains, More Services infrastructure upgrades

The NSW government has announced the two successful tenderers as part of the next stage of construction on the $4.3 billion More Trains, More Services upgrades.

The Next Rail partnership of John Holland and Jacobs will fulfil the contract between Central and Hurstville, and Transport for Tomorrow – made up of Laing O’Rouke and KBR – will work from Mortdale to Kiama. Each contract is worth about $300 million.

The program of works includes upgrades to rail infrastructure such as stabling yards, signalling, track, station platforms, and power supply on the South Coast, Illawarra and T8 Airport Lines.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that the works would enable better services on each line.

“The work will support the introduction of new suburban and intercity trains and allow us to deliver more frequent train services, with less wait times and a more comfortable journey for customers on the T4 Illawarra, T8 Airport and South Coast lines,” he said.

“We’re prioritising these lines because they are among the busiest on the network, catering for 440,000 trips in a typical day, which is around one third of daily rail customers.”

Construction will begin in the middle of 2020 and be completed ahead of the service improvements, which are scheduled for late 2022.

Passengers will see a 20 per cent increase in peak services on the T4 Illawarra Line, with space for up to 3,600 more travellers, equivalent to an extra three services an hour in the peak from interchanges such as Hurstville and Sutherland. There will be a 60 per cent increase on the T8 Airport line at the International, Domestic, Mascot, and Green Square stations with the capacity for an extra 2,400 passengers.

On the South Coast Line station platforms will be lengthened to accommodate the 10 car trains of the New Intercity Fleet trains as well as an extra off peak service each hour between Wollongong and the Sydney CBD, bringing frequency to a train every 30 minutes.

Constance said that the work will allow for an employment boost across a number of professions, including engineers, trades workers, and apprentices.

“Today’s announcement means we are keeping people in work and creating about 350 direct new jobs and around 200 indirect jobs located either in Sydney or on the South Coast.”

NIF being tested under its own power on NSW network

NSW’s New Intercity Fleet (NIF) is undergoing testing under its own power, in a significant step forward for the regional rail fleet.

Minister for Transport Andrew ConstanceNIF inspected the new trains.

“When the trains first arrived, on-track testing involved using a locomotive to haul the carriages. What we’re seeing today is a really exciting milestone because they’re now travelling around the network under their own power,” said Constance.

Further testing on the Sydney Trains network will calibrate the systems for local operation.

“Over the next few months you’ll see more of these trains on the network as we progressively test all train systems including Automatic Train Protection, passenger door systems, passenger information, CCTV, ride comfort as well as the maximum speed of 160kph,” said Constance. “We’ll also be using this time to familiarise the train crew with the new operating systems and technology on board.”

The trains have been previously criticised by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) for a feature which locks the train if the doors are open.

The fleet will serve regional centres in the Central Coast, Newcastle, South Coast, and Blue Mountains and upgrades to infrastructure and stations along the track are part of the delivery of the new fleet, said Minister for Regional Transport Paul Toole.

“These are modern trains featuring the latest technology, so we need to ensure we upgrade the infrastructure on the network to accommodate them.

“Work is also continuing on sections of the Blue Mountains Line, which will enable customers living between Springwood and Lithgow to experience a new train for the first time since the last of the V-Sets were introduced in 1989.”

The purpose-built maintenance facility for the trains at Kangy Angy on the NSW central coast is also progressing, said Toole.

“This work, along with the construction of the new maintenance facility at Kangy Angy, has helped to create around 1600 local jobs.”

RTBU refuses to staff NIF

Unless modifications are made to the New Intercity Fleet (NIF), currently being tested in NSW, Rail, Tram, and Bus Union (RTBU) members will refuse to work on the trains.

“Railway workers will simply refuse to put themselves, their workmates, and passengers at risk by allowing these flawed trains on the tracks,” said Alex Claassens, secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW.

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) denies that any fault exists with the fleet, and that instead, traction interlocking on doors is a design safety feature.

The feature will prevent the train from moving while the doors are open, including the guard’s door. Guards and drivers will be able to monitor the platform via CCTV, said a Transport for NSW spokesperson.

“These cameras allow drivers and guards to easily monitor the entire length of the train, even on curved platforms and in bad weather where visibility may be compromised. This provides a more contemporary method for monitoring train platforms which is used around the world.”

Claassens disputes that this new method will be safer and the RTBU would prefer the guard door to stay open after the passenger doors have closed.

“Currently, guards can hear people yelling and keep their eyes on the platform and doors until the train pulls away – they won’t under the new model,” he said.

Dynamic testing of the new fleet of 554 carriages, built in South Korea, is underway on the rail network, with static testing at the Eveleigh Maintenance Facility having been completed.

Concurrently, the RTBU and NSW TrainLink, the operator of the NIF, have been conducting working groups on the introduction of the New Intercity Fleet with health and safety representatives (HSR). Provisional improvement notices issued as part of this dialogue have been responded to, with others subject to review by SafeWork NSW.

In December, Metcalfe Rail Safety issued a review of the NIF operating model, commissioned by TfNSW. The review found that risks identified were eliminated or significantly reduced by the train’s design and the procedures required of the model.

“The people on the ground – the train guards, drivers and station staff – know these train aren’t safe. No piece of paper stating otherwise will convince people who know train safety inside and out that this New InterCity Fleet is anything but a danger on wheels,” said Claassens.

“Real experts who work on our trains every single day have seen these trains first-hand. They know that the current design flaw puts commuters at risk because it doesn’t allow train guards to properly monitor people in the moments before the train departs.”

Improvements on rail infrastructure on the Blue Mountains Line from Springwood to Lithgow is currently being carried out to widen the Ten Tunnels Deviation to allow the new fleet to pass through.

Stabling yards at Eveleigh, Gosford, Hamilton/Broadmeadow, Lithgow, Port Kembla, and Wollongong have been completed, and enabling work continues at over 100 stations. A new maintenance facility at Kangy Angy on the NSW Central Coast is also under construction and is scheduled to open later in 2020.