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NSW rail workers will refuse to staff the state’s new intercity fleet, citing safety concerns with the multibillion-dollar trains, escalating tensions between the Berejiklian government and rail union.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union said there is a "design fault" with the $2 billion South Korean-built fleet, which has already had its rollout delayed across NSW. The government disputes the claim.
An artist's impression of the new trains that are being built in South Korea.
While the first two 10-carriage trains arrived in NSW in December last year for testing, nine months late, it is still unclear when the entire fleet is expected to be rolled out.
The union and government have been at loggerheads for more than a year over the new fleet and its potential impact on rail jobs, with the trains technically able to operate with a single driver and no guard.
While the government has sought to allay fears of job cuts and insists guards will remain on the trains it is understood the union holds concerns with the new fleet’s reliance on CCTV cameras, rather than people.
"Train guards are unable to properly monitor passengers in the vital moments before the train leaves the platform," RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens said.
"It needs to be changed, or we risk serious injuries – or worse."
Mr Claassens has previously warned that passengers were at a higher risk of falling between the train and the platform on the new trains.
A government-commissioned review deemed the new fleet safe in December 2019, and said both the guard and driver would be able to see the complete length of the train as passengers got on and off.
The union dismissed the findings of the review, and plans to conduct its own safety inquiry once it is able to access the trains in Sydney.
"Railway workers will simply refuse to put themselves, their workmates and passengers at risk by allowing these flawed trains on the tracks," Mr Claassens said.
A Transport for NSW spokesman rejected the union’s claims of a design flaw.
"The safety of our customers and staff has been paramount in the design of these trains and new technology gives us the opportunity to improve how we safely operate the train and provide customer service," the spokesman said.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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