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THE NSW Government has cut the training time of rail drivers by five months in an effort to get more drivers on the tracks sooner.
Premier Bob Carr and Transport Minister Michael Costa today said the Government was on track to reach its target of 1350 train drivers, up from the current 1231, in a move it hopes will reduce the reliance on overtime that crippled Sydney's rail network in January.
CityRail will recruit 192 additional trainee drivers this year who will join 190 trainees already undergoing training.
Twenty-three drivers recruited this month are expected to be ready for duty by January 2006, after the 12 months they would usually spend on guard duty was cut to eight, and another month's training was cut in other areas.
"We are lifting driver numbers and that's weaning the system off that excessive reliance on overtime which has historically been part of how it's worked," Mr Carr said.
Mr Costa said driver-training times could be cut further as more efficiencies were found including a possible abolition of guard duty altogether.
"There are ongoing discussions with the (Rail Tram and Bus) union about further reductions in that time," he said.
RailCorp chief executive Vince Graham also said eight drivers out of 283 who had been medically tested were deemed permanently unfit for work, which was lower than expected.
However, he also said around 20 to 30 drivers were off the track at any given point in time because of temporary unfitness.
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