News State NSW News Off track: Overdue Sydney train upgrade has no finish date

Off track: Overdue Sydney train upgrade has no finish date

The Transport for NSW contract to upgrade Sydney trains was supposed to be completed last May.
The Tangara Technology Upgrade (NSW) to hundreds of Sydney train carriages was supposed to be finished last May. Photo: Getty
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An upgrade to hundreds of ageing Sydney train carriages that has so far blown out by eight months still has no expected completion date.

The Tangara Technology Upgrade (TTU) was supposed to be finished last May, but Transport for NSW would not reveal a revised due date – despite The New Daily submitting a freedom of information request.

The request was rejected because Transport for NSW claimed the finish date “is not final in nature” and “may be subject to further review and change”.

Despite the schedule delay, the department denied the project’s budget had blown out and said it remained on cost at $219.4 million.

Of that, $732,009 (or 0.33 per cent of the total cost) has been spent on external legal fees.

The government announced the project in 2015 and awarded a $131 million contract to UGL Unipart.

“The value of contract awarded to UGL Unipart has always been only part of the overall $219.4 million project budget,” a spokesperson told The New Daily.

“The project remains within its allocated budget.”

The spokesperson said the department is closely monitoring the delivery of the project and will continue working with UGL Unipart on its successful completion.

The upgrade

The upgrade to 446 Tangara carriages – or 55 trains – would add safety measures, extend their life by 10 years, improve the operations systems, and increase compliance to disability standards.

Safety measures include installing automatic train protection (ATP), recommended in 2005 by an inquiry into the Waterfall train crash that killed seven people.

Tangara trains meet required safety and engineering standards.

The most recent annual report tracking the government response to the Waterfall inquiry said the department expected the ATP rollout on the Tangara fleet to be completed by May 2021, three years after TTU was supposed to be finished.

All other fleets are expected to have ATP implemented by December next year, last year’s annual update said.

The New Daily last May revealed UGL Unipart was still hiring full-time staff for the project when the contract was supposed to be coming to its end.

About a dozen more job openings have since been advertised for the delayed project, including one position listed as recently as Monday for a test and commissioning engineer.

Disclosure denied

In its FOI decision, the information unit claimed it was in the public interest to not reveal a revised completion date because it could prejudice the government agency and business interests.

The decision stated it would not list the released information on the Transport for NSW disclosure log, as is required under section 25 of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009, if the information could be of interest to the public.

“I have decided not to include details about your access application in the disclosure log,” the officer said in her decision to The New Daily.

Five current government contracts with UGL Unipart are listed on the NSW tenders website, one of which is valued at $1.64 billion across seven years for transport maintenance.

UGL – part of UGL Unipart – is also part of the joint venture to deliver the $2.3 billion New Intercity Fleet, which will replace trains between Sydney and the Central Coast, Newcastle, Blue Mountains and the South Coast.

UGL is also part of the consortium delivering the Sydney Metro Northwest, delivering trains and mechanical works for $1.3 billion.

Despite the May 29 contract end date, a UGL statement to ASX in August 2015 put the TTU project completion date at July last year.

A Transport for NSW webpage on fleet delivery programs provides status updates on all projects except for the Tangara upgrade.

It comes after Transport for NSW suffered numerous setbacks on the light rail project, including two lawsuits over contract disputes.

CIMIC, which has a majority stake in UGL, declined to comment.

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