On-again, off-again train must be replaced ‘soon as possible’

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
There is mounting pressure to replace the unreliable Bunbury to Perth service.
Camera IconThere is mounting pressure to replace the unreliable Bunbury to Perth service. Credit: Nic Ellis / South Western Times

Just five days after the State Government announced the Australind train was back in action following a $700,000 maintenance overhaul, the notorious train was again pulled from the tracks.

There is mounting pressure to replace the unreliable Bunbury to Perth service with the ageing train out of action for most of the year and commuters instead forced onto buses, sparking disability access and scheduling concerns.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti and Bunbury MLA Don Punch last week spruiked the train’s return to the tracks, saying extensive maintenance work would keep it operating while the Government procured a new train.

But passengers planning to make the trip to Perth on Monday morning were notified the train was again out of service due to mechanical issues.

The latest interruptions have been slammed by South West MLC Steve Thomas who labelled Ms Saffioti’s premature announcement as “embarrassing and foolish politics”.

“We get a press release from Rita Saffioti saying ‘it’s all fixed, we fixed the neglect of the previous government’ and it lasts three days before it breaks down again,” Mr Thomas said.

“It’s an embarrassment to the Minister, she’s completely politicised this service.”

The train was back in service on Tuesday.

But Ms Saffioti hit back, saying Mr Thomas’ Liberal government did not spend a cent on the train.

“He was part of a government that for eight-and-a-half years spent some $8 billion on Royalties for Regions, yet not a cent of that was prioritised to replace or improve the Australind train,” Ms Saffioti said.

“The McGowan Government, with Bunbury MLA Don Punch, have a plan to replace the train.

“A contract for our next generation of trains and rail cars will be signed by the end of the year and a schedule for the Australind’s replacement will be a key part of that.”

Mr Thomas said it was “absolute rubbish” that the Government continued to blame “years of neglect” and the solution was to replace the train.

“For them to put out a press release claiming years of neglect and then to have a breakdown three days later, is an embarrassment,” he said.

“I’m pleased to see they’ve put $30 million into the Budget for that ... that needs to be done as quickly as possible,” he said.

Both Ms Saffioti and Mr Punch acknowledged the inconvenience and frustrations of commuters and said tenders for a replacement had been short listed.

“I am very disappointed the train has been out of action because this is vital service Bunbury people should be able to rely on,” Mr Punch said.

“While I recognise the inconvenience experienced by Australind passengers, the extent of the maintenance required meant – in the interest of safety – the PTA had no option but to remove the train from service.

“The procurement of a substantial asset like the Australind is not a quick process.

“It is under way and I know the Minister is committed to seeing a new train servicing Bunbury and the South West as soon as possible.”

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