Almost $40 million worth of Sydney’s seven-year-old trams have been taken out of service to fix cracking, in a situation the state’s opposition transport spokeswoman has called a “total mess”.
Transport Minister Rob Stokes announced on Friday all 12 trams on the city’s inner west line would be decommissioned for up to 18 months to fix cracks in the train cars.
NSW Labor transport spokeswoman Jo Haylen has described the move as a “light rail fail”.
The government needs to guarantee alternative work for employees and clarify whether the time the trams spend off the tracks will crossover with the conversion of the Bankstown train line to Sydney Metro, leaving commuters with “inferior” replacement buses instead of two types of rail transport, Ms Haylen said.
Transport for NSW chief operations officer Howard Collins has said he wants the tram fixes “to be done and dusted” by the time the Bankstown line is closed down, and the 18 months the trams could spend off the tracks leaves “a small amount of headroom”.
“We want to fill a workshop with these trams with very competent engineers from Australia who can retrofit, strengthen and sort out these cracks permanently,” Mr Collins said.
Ms Haylen said the government “should have been reaching out to add domestic manufacturers here in Australia to build these in the first place”.
Mr Stokes said the 18 month timeline is the “worst-case scenario” and replacement services were being provided for customers who “won’t be expected to pay anything more” for them.
“People from the inner west and across Sydney are furious they are going to be forced onto slower replacement buses for up to a year and a half,” Ms Haylen said.
Along with Inner West mayor Rochelle Porteous she is calling on the government to make the replacement service completely free instead.
Customers “shouldn’t have to pay for the government’s procurement mistakes,” Ms Haylen said.