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Rail maintenance jobs in Sydney are under threat from new trains replacing NSW’s ageing regional fleet over the next few years, leaked government documents show.
And they reveal that the state's transport agency has identified "industrial relations" as a key issue in the project to replace NSW's decades-old fleet of XPT, Xplorer and Endeavour trains.
"Once the existing regional fleet is retired, a number of Sydney Trains employees involved in the maintenance of the existing regional fleet are expected to be displaced," the internal Transport for NSW documents state.
The state's XPT trains are among those due to be retired by 2023.
"A comprehensive transition and industrial relations plan will be established to manage potential redundancies and other IR issues."
Despite the documents, which are dated late last year, Transport Minister Andrew Constance said on Wednesday that there would be "no job losses as a result of the regional train fleet".
As part of the project, a new regional maintenance facility will be built at Dubbo, which some in the rail industry have criticised because of the longer distances the new trains will have to travel to get to a depot for an overhaul.
At present, the regional fleet is maintained at depots in Sydney.
A Spanish company is expected to win the government contract to replace the XPTs and other regional trains.CREDIT:ANDREW QUINN
Transport for NSW said in a statement that the regional train project would "create hundreds of new jobs and business opportunities in Dubbo during the construction and ongoing operation of the maintenance facility".
But Labor's transport spokeswoman, Jodi McKay, said the government needed to come clean on how many maintenance jobs would be axed and which ones.
"They need to do more than treat this as a public relations exercise. It is about honesty and, going into this election, making a firm statement about how many jobs are going to be cut," she said.
The leaked documents also warn that the "poor condition" of rail tracks could reduce the expected 35-year life of the new trains and lead to higher than expected maintenance costs.
But a spokesman for Transport for NSW said more than $1.54 billion had been invested in the operation and maintenance of rail tracks in the country regional network.
"Transport for NSW is also working with the Australian Rail Track Corporation to identify areas of track on their network that require upgrades," he said.
The internal documents list one of the benefits of the new fleet to the state as a "significant reduction" in maintenance costs.
"The cost of maintaining the current fleet is high and increasing due to the fleet being at or near life expiry, parts obsolescence and historical maintenance practices," the documents state.
Spanish rail manufacturer CAF is widely expected to beat a consortium led by Downer for the contract to replace the regional rail fleet and build the Dubbo maintenance yard.
A third bidder led by Bombardier pulled out of the race in May last year.
The government expects to award the contract early this year.
The Herald recently revealed concerns within Sydney Trains that its older fleet, which includes the XPT, Endeavour and Xplorer trains, is in a "poor to unacceptable condition".
The rail operator expects the introduction of a new regional fleet from 2021 will allow the retirement of all of the 60 XPT and more than 50 Endeavour and Xplorer trains by 2023.
The threat to rail maintenance jobs in Sydney comes several months after the Berejiklian government ruled out a new fleet of intercity trains being driver-only, after the rail union threatened to escalate a campaign against any move to remove guards.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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