A $2.8bn order for 65 new trains will result in all trains on the NSW network being air conditioned. Currently, 90% of all trains on the Sydney Trains network, as well as all trains on both the NSW TrainLink network and T4 Line on the Sydney Trains network, are air conditioned. However, the new trains are not expected to begin taking passengers until 2019, with a complete rollout taking a further 5 years to 2024. This means non-air conditioned trains may still be operating for the next decade.
This new order of 65 trains represents a renewal of about a quarter of all electric passenger trains in NSW, of which there are currently 253 sets of 8 carriage trains, that will operate on the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, and South Coast Lines. The new trains could include features such as luggage compartments and premium carriages. These will replace the existing 52 electric trains used for intercity passenger services (25 V-Set and 27 OSCAR trains). This in turn will allow those 27 OSCAR trains to be reallocated off the intercity network and onto the suburban network to replace the 24 ageing S-Set trains, none of which are air conditioned and the first of which was introduced in 1972.
These new trains will also be off the shelf, rather than designed specifically for the Sydney rail network. “Previously, NSW has developed unique and often costly train fleets from scratch, which has taken as long as seven years from start to delivery”, the Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said, adding that “We are looking at buying off-the-shelf trains with proven technology and then configuring them to meet our customers’ needs, meaning we can ensure the best value, best possible service and also have these new trains on the tracks faster”. Each new train will cost $43m, less than the $46m each Waratah train cost.
The government’s decision not to take up the option to order an additional 20 Waratah trains has previously been cited for why 10% of the fleet on Sydney Trains still lacks air conditioning. These non-air conditioned trains had to be retained in order to provide additional services on the South West Rail Link, set to open next year. When asked to comment, a spokesperson for Transport for NSW said “The S-Sets are rarely used but remain in storage for now and are only put in service when required”.
The electric train fleet
NSW has 253 electric passenger trains, split between Sydney Trains (201) and NSW TrainLink (52). There are also an additional 21 diesel trains that operate on the non-electrified Hunter and Southern Highlands Lines, as well as part of the South Coast Line.
Most of the time the electric trains operate as a set of 8 carriages, although with the exception of the Waratah trains these can be split into twice as many 4 carriage trains. The old “silver set” trains include the S-Set, K-Set, and C-Set trains, depending on whether they are air conditioned or have reversible seats. The oldest of these, the S-Sets, are the only trains to lack air conditioning, and will be kept on for the next decade primarily in reserve. The reasoning here is that if an additional train is needed due to another train not being available, a non-air conditioned train is better than no train at all.
The 65 new trains will allow the existing 25 trains in the V-Set fleet to be retired, the first of which were introduced in the 1970s (the oldest have since begun to be withdrawn), and also allow the 27 OSCAR trains to replace the 24 S-Set trains. This will mirror what happened when OSCARS were first introduced, replacing the G-Set Tangaras that were originally designed for long distance trips. These G-Set Tangaras included toilets and had reversible seats, but were later refurbished to remove the toilets and add additional seating, then re-designated T-Sets like the remainder to the Tangara fleet but retaining their reversible seats.