New Sydney train fleet plagued by ‘dangerous’ design flaw

A design flaw on Sydney’s $2.43 million high-tech Korean-designed intercity train fleet could be putting the lives of Sydney commuters at risk, the transport union says.

The government says the trains which boast “enhanced safety features” will provide “a new level of comfort and convenience” for thousands of customers who travel between Sydney and the Central Coast and Newcastle, the Blue Mountains, and the South Coast and denies there is anything wrong with the design.

But the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) says the government mustn’t allow the roll-out of the new InterCity Fleet trains, which were originally scheduled to come into service at the end of the year, until the problem is fixed.

The government has already delayed the introduction of the fleet until late 2020, with Transport Minister Andrew Constance on Monday citing “ongoing industrial issues in relation to the design of the train”.

“My expectation is we’ll see a train arrive later this year. We’re just getting on with the job and at the same time expect Transport for NSW and union can work through the issues. No one is rushing the testing or commissioning of any train and that is my expectation. I don’t care if takes a bit longer, it’s got to be done with safety first,” he told reporters.

They say concerns were first raised about the design of the 55 new trains last month, when transport workers noticed a glitch which hampers train guards’ ability to see passengers embarking and disembarking from the platform.

The issue means that train guards can’t open their door to monitor commuters during the 15 second period before the train departure, placing passengers at increased risk of serious incidents such as falling in the gap between the train and the platform, the RTBU warns.

“We have experienced workers telling Transport for NSW that the New InterCity Fleet design is incredibly unsafe, but for some reason they don’t seem to be interested in listening,” NSW Secretary, Alex Claassens said.

“If the trains arrive in Australia in their current form – late or otherwise – people’s lives will be put at risk.”

The new train fleet will transport passengers between Sydney and the Central Coast and Newcastle, the Blue Mountains and the South Coast.

‘Let my accident be a warning,’ says man dragged 200m by train

Another person calling attention to the claimed design fault is 2018 Blind Australian of the Year, Martin Stewart, who fell between a train and a platform in Melbourne in 2002 when boarding a train without guards, resulting in him being dragged 200 meters and losing his arm, leg and part of his ear.

The accident occurred in the 15-second-period before the train departed.

Martin Stewart (left), Speaking to the media last Friday next to the RTBU’s Alex Claassens.

“Unless the design fault with these trains is rectified, there’s no doubt we’ll see accidents like mine here in NSW,” Mr Stewart said.

“Let my accident be a warning – we can’t afford not to allow guards to conduct their safety critical role on NSW trains.”

The flaw has prompted calls for the roll out of the fleet, which boasts “enhanced safety” features to be delayed until the issue is fixed.

Mr Claassens said in their current form the trains are not fit for public use.

“We’d rather see these trains turn up even later and be safe, rather than have them rushed to Australia in their current, unsafe form.

“A design fault in the New InterCity Fleet means they’re simple not safe. Train guards are unable to properly monitor passengers in the vital moments before the train leaves the platform. It needs to be changed, or we risk serious injuries – or worse – on the network.

But a spokesperson from Transport for NSW said that there is no safety flaw on the new fleet, telling Government News that new technology allows guards to use CCTV during the train’s departure, removing the need for them to lean out of the door of the moving train to inspect the platform.

“CCTV cameras offer guards full visibility of the entire length of the train, even on curved platforms and in bad weather. This provides a more contemporary method for monitoring train platforms,” the spokesperson said.

“The safety of our customers and staff has been paramount in the design of these trains and new technology gives us the opportunity to improve how we safely operate the train and provide customer service.”

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6 thoughts on “New Sydney train fleet plagued by ‘dangerous’ design flaw

  1. This is what you get when the contacts went overseas to design our trains, Loss of jobs in Australia, I know my husband was one of them…. A lot more money needs to be spent now … “O gee” where is our tax money going with people out of jobs and on Newstart….Not good!

  2. What if the cameras go off line, then what does the guard do?
    When a guard can safely look outside onto the platform they can also rely on their hearing to assess the situation. It’s the same when you cross the road you look and listen.

  3. lf 90% of NSW transport workers are refusing to work on these trains there must be a real issue here! Having been at the scene of a few train related accidents where people were injured and some died, l understand why people would prefer not to have this type of experience. l personally would prefer that this “flaw ” was rectified.

  4. In the background the rail industry in Australia is tirelessly working toward a Safer Place for Workers and Passengers.
    This has meant work practices have improved and the lives of rail workers are part of the issue at stake here.
    For years passengers travel in locked carriages. And Guards have not. The advent of these new trains where all people on a train are locked inside for the journey is a way of moving along this pathway.
    The issue of the 15 seconds is real. I don’t hear any arguments. the question is Work practices. Is technology alone the answer?
    A way past the stumbling block.
    Guards wearing PPE that connect them to the train while the door is open is an option. The PPE could be proximity electronic lock? if the guard is not on the train, then the train stops!
    It’s as serious an issue as SPAD is!

  5. The New intercity fleet are not what the public asked for,once the union fix’s all the issues with guards,the unsafe guard doors and the emergency buttons that go to a call centre instead of the guard on the train, once thats all fixed up then the you know what will really hit the fan once the public find out that the seating is fixed,the nsw government has been very quiet about the fixed seats,anyhow if the new intercity sets are delayed five or so years so what! most people are happy with the newly refurbished comfortable and quiet 40 year old v sets:-).

  6. My greatest concern is regarding the quality and qualifications of engineers available to put together the specifications of the new D Sets for tender on behalf of the NSW Govt. We must be mindful that we are not designing trains for the sub-continent; instead, we are procuring trains that have to encompass an extensive and complex network, endure an very challenging topography and have stakeholders such as our unions that consider the safety of staff and above all the commuter who use these trains.

    Our trains MUST be designed specifically for our unique needs and specifications developed by Australians that have extensive and proven abilities to demand only the best rolling stock available. I for one cannot afford to continually bail-out non-conformance delivery of the rail tenders and neither should any other New South Welshmen; billions of dollars wasted because of NSW Govt’s paranoia in building cheap junk trains off-shore.

    Just think about all the trains being refurbished by rail enthusiasts; the majority of them were actually designed and developed by Australians and in many cases, built by the NSW railways and many are 50+ years old. Does that say something?

    Only today, there is serious concerns about the quality of Sydney trams which have major and serious design faults. The very same company that will be building our new replacement XPT fleet – heaven help us.

    It’s not great rolling stock, we are the global laughing stock !!!!!

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