I note that the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure has obviously been busier in recent weeks than usual. Last night he announced additional rail transport capacity for the Blue Mountains line, among other changes throughout the network.
An additional 2,000 seats will apparently be added to the Blue Mountains line through the conversion of some weekday afternoon trains to eight-car services.
I have been calling upon the Minister to add extra capacity for many months.
While I am sure that Blue Mountains commuters will be very grateful for the additional capacity, Minister Constance should know that there is a great deal more to do to bring the Blue Mountains line up to speed with the world‑class long distance commuter service that my community deserves.
The biggest area of need is capacity on weekends, in particular on services that are popular with day trippers and tourists travelling home to the city after a weekend in the mountains. It is very common for passengers to stand for the distance between the tourism hotspots of Blackheath or Katoomba and the lower mountains and Penrith. That is a distance of more than 40 kilometres.
Passengers can find themselves on their feet for more than an hour and fifteen minutes. Not only does this reflect poorly upon our public transport system for international and interstate visitors but also it drives local residents insane. Those people rely on the Blue Mountains trains to get to and from the shops, to visit their friends and family, and to travel to work and home.
The solution to the problem is very simple: add more carriages to the existing scheduled services.
Run six- or eight-car trains instead of four.
I suspect the reason the transport Minister is trumpeting additional capacity on weekdays but remains silent about chronic weekend overcrowding is that to add extra capacity on Sunday would mean paying additional staff penalty rates.
To give a bit of context: Because of our mountainous topography, our station platforms in the Blue Mountains are often curved. A train guard cannot see to the end of the train when they are closing the doors on six- and eight-car trains.
This means—only on the Blue Mountains line—that an extra staff member needs to ride along on an six- or eight-car trains to assist the train guard when closing doors at platforms where the curve of the platform is too large.
We used to have six- and eight-car trains on weekends in the Blue Mountains. Those services were cut to save a buck.
So there you have it. Next time people are standing for up to two hours on a Blue Mountains line train they should remember that it is not because there are not enough train carriages in marshalling yards and it is not because the Government did not anticipate the passenger numbers.
It is because the transport Minister does not want to shell out for the added cost of staffing our trains on weekends.
It is because those opposite are a bunch of cheapskates.
Indeed, the mean and stingy nature of this Government is laid bare by the government tender documents I have got hold of for the New Intercity Fleet project.
The New Intercity Fleet is to replace our ageing V-set trains on the Blue Mountains, Newcastle and Illawarra lines.
As has been confirmed by Transport NSW today in a written statement to the Blue Mountains Gazette, they are being designed to run without a guard at all from 2019 onwards.
Given that there are already safety issues with longer trains on our platforms in the mountains, I wonder how the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure expects passengers to be able to get on and off our trains safely without any guard on board at all.
Not only do the cheapskates in the Baird Government refuse to adequately staff our trains on weekends; they are busily making plans to lay off train guards altogether from 2019.
This is a disgraceful move by a disgraceful Government.
There is not a public service employee, apart from their own spin doctors and ministerial advisers, that Members of the Government would not sack if they could find a way.
The New Intercity Fleet is shaping up to be a complete disaster.
The Minister for Transport and Infrastructure is openly canvassing his Liberal Party colleagues about opportunities for him to jump ship and move to the Federal Parliament—and so he should.
On a margin of just 8 per cent in his electorate, Minister Constance should, indeed, be thinking about his future “career intentions”—that’s the Orwellian language that the Government is using for train guards who are about to be laid off—because we are coming after you, Minister.
He is a bad Minister, this is a bad Government and it is delivering bad outcomes for passengers on our trains.