By Paul Hemsley
Western Australian Transport Minister Troy Buswell has ratcheted up investment in Perth’s increasingly popular railway network to absorb the growth in passenger patronage on state capital’s trains mitigate overcrowding ahead of a looming election.
Mr Buswell has ordered the Public Transport Authority (PTA) to increase the number of trains the state government it has on order for Transperth by another five three-car B-series train sets, the equivalent of 15 railcars bringing the total to be delivered by late 2013 to 66.
The latest increase raises the number of new railcars to be deployed or replaced by the Barnett government from 234 to 300.
The WA government will spend $243 million on the latest buy-up and has also allocated an additional $22 million for operational costs.
Cramped commuters in the West have been suffering delays on the delivery of the B-series trains since 2009 because of problems with the electronic messaging and security systems.
The issue of overcrowded trains has come into sharp focus for the WA government following reports that people were fainting on congested trains due to a lack of oxygen.
Increasing the amount of commuter rolling stock has become a major political issue in the run-up to the 2013 state election after Labor Opposition Leader Mark McGowan promised to deliver 30 new railcars estimated to cost $110 million.
The 30 new railcars promised by WA Labor was 24 more than the Barnett government’s previous commitment of procuring of six carriages in August 2012.
Mr Buswell said he has tasked the PTA to plan on increasing the capacity of the train system and its long-term network requirements.
“Drawing inspiration from Directions 2031 and Beyond, this will consider patronage trends as well as population growth and dispersion,” Mr Buswell said.
Directions 2031 and Beyond is the Department of Planning’s blueprint for the state’s plan for population and urban growth.
The railcars will feature a “modified seating configuration” with “more longitudinal (bench) seating” to further boost capacity, Mr Buswell said.
Mr Buswell’s claim of increased patronage of the Transperth train system comes as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) this year reported that the population has grown in the other suburbs of Perth.
According to the ABS, the local government area of Wanneroo increased by 6,200 and Rockingham by 3,900, which is Mr McGowan’s legislative assembly seat.
The government is already planning on introducing a future generation of railcars to be ordered in mid-2014 and expected to be delivered in 2017, which will stem from the PTA’s investigation of international train types and carriage configurations.
“One of the features likely to be focused on is the number of doors in each railcar, to facilitate faster passenger boarding [and] alighting, cutting station ‘dwell’ times and allowing greater service frequencies,” Mr Buswell said.
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