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A major upgrade to NSW's decades-old fleet of Tangara passenger trains – already running eight months' late – is unlikely to be finished until next year because of challenges installing new technology.
The overhaul is aimed at extending the working life of the Tangara fleet by about a decade by improving their reliability and safety, helping Sydney's rail network cope with a forecast 21 per cent surge in passenger trips over the next three years.
Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins says crucial parts of the upgrade will be prioritised.CREDIT:KATE GERAGHTY
Asked why the $219 million project was running late, Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that "we are dealing with very old trains and we’re fitting new technology to them".
Mr Constance said Sydney Trains and the state's main transport agency would pressure the contractor to deliver the project "as quickly as possible".
A consortium of UGL and Unipart Rail won a $131 million contract in 2015 to upgrade technology on 446 Tangara passenger rail cars. It was due to be completed by May last year.
The contract is part of the overall $219 million project to upgrade the Tangara fleet, which includes the installation of automatic train protection technology recommended in 2005 by aninquiry into the Waterfall train crash which killed seven people.
The upgrade to the Tangara fleet is unlikely to be finished until next year.CREDITHIL HEARNE
The roll out of the automatic train protection technology across the state's trains and electrified rail network has proved a challenge since the project began in 2008.
"We have done a lot of work and we are going to continue to roll it out over the next 18 to 24 months," Mr Constance said on Monday.
Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins said important aspects of the upgrade to the Tanagara trains such as the installation of a modern computer control system would be prioritised.
"We will prioritise what is important to be finished this year, but I can't imagine that everything will be complete by the end of this calendar year," he said.
However, he insisted the delay would not impacted the performance of the city's railway.
"The most important thing for those Tangaras is fitting them out so they can be operated in the [new] signalling system, which will be completed in the next two years, and also putting in the new train management system," he said.
"We could continue to run those trains, and not affect our performance, as they are today. But we all know that we want better facilities."
The installation of new doors on the Tangara carriages has been completed. The old doors had been identified as one of the reasons for the trains' poor reliability.
The Tangara fleet entered service on Sydney's rail network in the 1980s and 1990s.
Sydney Trains has been making its case to the state government for continued investment in its train fleet to cope with record growth in demand.
It will press into service over the coming months the final batch of 24 new Waratah trains, which will allow it to retire the last S-Sets – the oldest in the suburban fleet – by the middle of this year. The S-Sets lack air conditioning, earning them the nickname "sweat seats".
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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