Sydney trains assets in ‘very poor’ condition amid maintenance backlog
  Greg Sutherland

The NSW transport agency has warned the government about significant funding shortfalls to Sydney’s train network, flagging that the routine maintenance backlog risks blowing out to as much as $1.5 billion within 10 years.

The Transport for NSW document, marked sensitive and released to the NSW Parliament, revealed operating expenditure on the Sydney train network had been below the required sustainable level for the past five to 10 years.

The maintenance backlog on Sydney’s train network risks blowout out to more than $1.5 billion, according to a government document.

The maintenance backlog on Sydney’s train network risks blowout out to more than $1.5 billion, according to a government document.Credit:Brook Mitchell

While the trains and tracks are in “reasonable” state, the report said the condition of many transport assets had been “progressively deteriorating”, with a significant maintenance backlog which was forecast to reach $1.58 billion by 2031 under one funding scenario.

“In the last 10 years, there have been some significant increases in demand for train services, while funding levels have remained relatively constant,” the report said.

Poorly maintained rail bridges over the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers were also highlighted in the report, while substations at Chullora, St Marys, Emu Plains, Oakey Park, Westmead and Narwee were identified as being in a “very poor” condition.

NSW Labor seized on the document during Thursday’s question time, and questioned the government’s transport maintenance record amid the inner west light rail outage.

“The NSW Liberals have skimped on maintenance spending at the expense of commuter safety,” Opposition leader Chris Minns said.

“Maintenance includes servicing the current fleet for safety and reliability, track maintenance, and inspections. These are essential safety works that must be undertaken. ”

Transport Minister Rob Stokes said the NSW government was investing billions in the network.“But the challenge with that is that we need to spend more money on maintenance because we have more to maintain,” Mr Stokes said in question time.

He said the government spent about $14 billion in maintenance across the transport network.

The total maintenance backlog for the 2021-22 financial year was listed as $670 million. It was estimated at $440 million for the 2019-20 financial year, with close to $120 million existing in “top critical assets”, which was identified as a source of considerable risk and performance impact.

Without funding keeping pace with inflation, the backlog is forecast to rise $1.65 billion within 10 years, the report warned.

NSW Labor also questioned how often the inner west light rail vehicles were inspected given one section of the asset management plan referred to “annual inspections”.

Mr Stokes said he had been informed the trams were inspected monthly.

The /Herald /revealed last month that cracks had been discovered on several trams, which forced the suspension of the service. Cracks were subsequently found on every tram, prompting the government to cancel the service for more than a year

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Tom Rabe

Tom Rabe is Transport Reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.Connect via Twitter or email