NSW train drivers and workers will sit out a planned two-day test of a new intercity trains over safety concerns, with the Rail, Tram and Bus Union describing the trains as “lethal weapons”.
The RTBU’s executive endorsed a safety ban on the readiness exercise of the new fleet on Thursday, instructing its members not to perform any work associated with the trains during the testing phase.
The RTBU is also urging commuters who might be travelling on Friday to make alternative travel arrangements.
The New Intercity Fleet will bring 55 new trains to operate on the Central Coast & Newcastle, Blue Mountains and South Coast lines, replacing older V-set trains.
A report by Klaus Clemens Engineers has found that the operating model of the New Intercity Fleet of trains has room to improve on safety, saying that it fails to meet the “so far as is reasonably practical” safety standard. The report was commissioned by the RTBU and made public last week.
RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens has called on Transport Minister Andrew Constance to call off the test in light of the safety concerns.
“Let me be clear, the New Intercity Fleet trains are unsafe and our members will not be forced into driving and operating these lethal weapons,” Mr Claassens said in a statement on Thursday.
Union members would not work on the trains during the testing phase, he said.
“We’ve been warning the government of serious safety concerns on the New Intercity Fleet and now we regrettably have no option but to take action to protect the community and our members from these trains that are a safety disaster waiting to happen,” Mr Claassens said.
The RTBU wrote to its members on Thursday evening directing them to stay away from the fleet.
Commuters will not be on board the trains used in this weekend’s test, Transport for NSW says.
Transport for NSW and NSW TrainLink are reviewing the Klaus Clemens Engineers report and all safety concerns will be taken seriously, a Transport for NSW spokesperson said.
“Since arriving, the New Intercity Fleet has been undergoing a rigorous testing schedule and we have been using that time to ensure that all the systems, including safety, are performing as expected,” the spokesperson said.
The report drew particular attention to a new system which would mean drivers need to look at CCTV to watch out for hazards on train platforms, instead of relying on guards to do it for them.
That could mean they are distracted when they should be looking at the track in front of them, the report says, and CCTV is not as good as the human eye.
It was concerning that these issues and other potential hazards had not previously been flagged, the report says.
Another train safety expert, Ray Metcalfe, has previously reviewed the train and its operating model and concluded that it is safer than current practice.
Transport for NSW is confident the train will be staffed this weekend. A recent expression of interest for driver training for the new fleet was oversubscribed, the spokesperson said.