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(Aus)Late Waratah trains held up over contract changes

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From The Sydney Morning Herald:


Late Waratah trains held up over contract changes

Jacob Saulwick Transport

June 15, 2011


A LAST-MINUTE hitch has delayed the first Waratah train from entering passenger service, after RailCorp finally indicated it would accept the train.


Passengers are likely to be riding in the new train within a fortnight.


But before it enters service, the public private partnership set up to deliver the train, Reliance Rail, has had to go back to its lenders to seek permission to change its contract with RailCorp.


For commuters, the absence of the Waratah trains has been a frustration over the past year as they have had to endure old carriages without airconditioning.


But RailCorp will only let the first train enter service on the condition a number of gremlins are fixed by an agreed date. This requires Reliance to get the permission of its lenders before it agrees to new conditions.


A spokeswoman for Reliance Rail said: ''Under the financial agreement Reliance Rail has an obligation to obtain the controlling parties' consent to any material changes to the project contract.''


When the first Waratah train finally does enter service, and it is more than 18 months late, it will operate under special conditions. RailCorp will employ a second driver to sit in the driver's cab because of concerns the windscreen goes "milky" when exposed to sunlight.


The train will also only be driven by test drivers who have a lot of experience driving the Waratah train.


The Rail, Tram and Bus Union has insisted that the problem with the windscreen, as well as other concerns, are rectified by the time Reliance's train builder, Downer EDI, delivers its second Waratah train.


''We have worked with RailCorp to get to a point where we are satisfied with that,'' the passenger organiser with the RTBU's locomotive division, Bob Newham, said.


The RTBU has also been concerned about emergency ramps fitted into the drivers' cab at either end of the train allowing passengers to escape in the event of an accident. These are understood to have had paddings added to them.


A spokeswoman for RailCorp said it had completed its inspection and assessment process on Friday. ''Reliance Rail is awaiting the consent of their financial stakeholders which is required to achieve practical completion for the first train,'' she said.


Once this occurs, the train then has to be approved by the state's Independent Transport Safety Regulator. RailCorp's spokeswoman said the train should be in service by July.


Reliance Rail's directors are unlikely to be able to sign off on the accounts for the 2010-11 financial year without an explicit assurance from the state government that it would assist the public private partnership.


Reliance needs to draw down a $357 million debt from February next year. Yet, without government assistance, it would have little confidence that it could repay the debt.


If the government did step in, it could help ensure the viability of the project. But it would also undermine the motivation for public private partnerships, where companies win government contracts but are supposed to bear the risk of delivery.



What hasn't been listed is an upgrade to the eTIS software. Which in simple terms has a say over everything to some point in the train.

At least it's nearly ready to go......18 months late.

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