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.”

Waratah

New Waratah Series 2 train in service 3 months ahead of schedule

The first of a second order of Waratah Series 2 trains has entered service this week, three months ahead of schedule.

The train is one of 17 Waratah Series 2 trains that will begin operating on the Sydney network as part of the second delivery. The rest are expected to commence service later in 2020 and early 2021, said Minister for Transport Andrew Constance.

“It is exciting to see this train on the tracks three months ahead of schedule, after it was one of 17 fast tracked for delivery at the start of 2019,” said Constance.

“The remainder of the trains will be delivered by the end of this year and will be rolled out progressively after testing.”

The investment in new rollingstock is part of the NSW government’s More Trains More Services program. The program also covers upgrades to signalling, the installation of new train control systems, traffic managements systems, and infrastructure improvements.

The $4.3 billion investment will increase the capacity of the current Sydney network to allow for further growth in passenger demand as seen over the past years, said Constance.

“We have seen rapid growth in the number of train journeys over the past few years, which is why it is so important that we invest in new trains and new infrastructure right across our rail network.”

Sydney Trains acting chief executive Suzanne Holden said the new trains would feature similar passenger-focused upgrades as those in the first delivery.

“They’ll feature air conditioning with advanced temperature control, high definition customer information screens, internal and external CCTV, as well as priority seating, wheelchair spaces and hearing aid loops,” she said.

The new trains will operate on the T2 Inner West & Leppington, T3 Bankstown, and T8 Airport & South lines.

The rest of the fleet will be delivered before the end of 2020. Once in Australia the trains will undergo testing and commissioning.

Waratah

First of next set of Waratah trains arrive

The first delivery of the second order of Waratah Series 2 trains have arrived at the Port of Newcastle.

The trains are the first of 17 new Waratah Series 2 trains to expand the Sydney Trains fleet. The increase in trains is part of the More Trains, More Services program.

Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said the need to have more trains was due to rising patronage.

“Over the last few years we’ve seen a rapid growth in the number customers travelling on the rail network which is why it is important we invest in new infrastructure, including new trains,” he said.

Once the full fleet is operational on the Sydney network it will take the number of Waratah Series 2 trains to 41. The extra order was announced in February 2019.

Once the trains arrived at the dock, they were able to be placed immediately on rail lines adjacent to the ship. The rest of the 15 trains will be handled in this way over the next eight months, said Port of Newcastle CEO Craig Carmody.

“Newcastle has a key advantage in being able to unload this type of rolling stock cargo directly onto rail lines immediately next to the ship, without the need for any unnecessary truck movements.”

A Newcastle Stevedores spokesperson said that the team enjoys the challenge of this style of cargo.

“We are delighted to facilitate the discharge and initial consolidation of the second stage of the project. The unique nature of West Basin, with direct under hook access to network connected rail, lends itself perfectly to rolling stock imports.”

The trains will undergo testing and completion works in Cardiff and will then be hauled by locomotive to the Auburn Maintenance Centre. Testing there will ready the trains for the Sydney network.

“Most of the testing will take place at night and across the weekend to minimise the impact on customers,” said Constance.

The trains are manufactured in a joint venture between Chinese manufacturer CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles and Downer Rail. The vehicles are assembled in Changchun before testing and commissioning is conducted in Cardiff, near Newcastle.