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Union getting NSW track deal assessed

<p>The Australian Rail, Tram and Bus Union has commissioned a consulting firm to assess the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) proposal to take over management of the New South Wales interstate track.</p> <p>The union expects to see the BIS Shrapnel report within the next weeks and the State Government’s interstate access taskforce has promised to consider its verdict during negotiations with the Commonwealth over the 60-year lease.</p> <p>The union already has several concerns about the mooted arrangements, namely job security, safety outcomes and the precise level of infrastructure investment once the track is under ARTC management. </p> <p>The NSW Government has similar concerns. While some bureaucrats in the state Transport Department support the agreement in principle, they want more time devoted to sorting out the nuts and bolts. </p> <p>They also want a solid commitment from the Commonwealth that the new management structure is viable for the long-term.</p> <p>NSW doesn’t want a National Express or Freight Australia situation on it hands where five years down the track it has to resume responsibility for the network because of initial failure to get the terms and conditions right.</p> <p>To this end, NSW wants to ensure the ARTC has the right people with the right expertise to manage its complicated network. </p> <p>It also wants assurances that money will continue to flow once the initial $870m package runs out. </p> <p>And it would like clarification on appropriate manning levels. It is understood the ARTC has agreed to underwrite employment of 1,000 workers. </p> <p>But according to a State Government commissioned report by Maunsell Australia, the track requires a larger pool of workers to ensure proper management and maintenance.</p> <p>The NSW Government goes to the polls in March and with the BIS Shrapnel report still a few weeks off, a decision on the lease won’t be made in the next two months. </p> <p>But as of April there should be swifter movements towards an outcome. </p> <br />