A train moving by in western Sydney.

Sydney Trains has created the Sydney Rail Repair Plan following a review revealing a backlog of maintenance issues and continued reliability issues.

The plan is a major coordinated program of rail maintenance that will last for 12 months, and is in response to the recent interim recommendations made by the expert panel conducting the Sydney Trains Review. 

It made 12 recommendations for restoring reliability to the network after a series of failures left thousands of passengers stranded without trains.

The review found a maintenance backlog had led to equipment failures causing major shut-downs – equipment that should have been inspected, repaired, refurbished or replaced but wasn’t because maintenance crews could not get sufficient access to the track.

The review found this was partly because of extreme weather events and industrial action, but mainly because a new timetable in 2017 pushed the network to its limits and severely restricted access to the tracks for maintenance.

It recommended an all-out assault on this backlog to repair the network, dramatically reduce equipment failures and restore reliability for passengers.

Sydney Trains has now mapped out a massive maintenance program to take place every weekend for the next year or more. It is designed to perform several years’ worth of normal maintenance works in that time, by pouring huge resources and numbers of additional crews into the task.

Sydney Trains maintains more than 2000km of track and associated infrastructure.

The Sydney Rail Repair Plan at a glance:

  • The works will cost an estimated $97 million funded out of existing unspent budgets, due to the lack of access for maintenance in recent years
  • Around 3700 repairs, upgrades, and refurbishments
  • Around 100 worksites and hundreds of workers every weekend
  • On some weekends there will be around 300 additional worksites (double the usual number)
  • Hundreds of workers will be deployed every weekend, and on some weeks thousands of workers
  • More than 14,000 maintenance shifts across the network over the next 12 months
  • Around 450km of rail repair, such as grinding, and electrical inspections
  • Ballast trains deployed, servicing more than 900t of track ballast in a single session
  • Regular maintenance completes 600 defect removals on average each year
  • Under the Rail Repair Plan more than 1900 high priority defects will be repaired
  • Around 600,000 weekend passengers will lose normal train services and need to use replacement buses over the next 12 months

New South Wales Minister for Transport, Jo Haylen, said that continuing system failures and meltdowns are not an option.

“Millions of people depend on our trains. In recent times the service has become sub-standard due to system failures caused by the neglect of maintenance,” Ms Haylen said. 

“We have to fix our rail network and it’s going to take a massive effort.

“For the next year or so we are going to massively disrupt the network on weekends while our crews get in and fix it.”

“The work will be around the clock from midnight Friday to midnight Sunday.

“We have no choice. It’s the only way to get it fixed and have reliable trains again.

“If you use trains on weekends, I’m sorry but you’re going to find yourself on buses – a lot.

“It’s a year or more of pain but it will deliver the huge, world-class train system Sydney needs and deserves.

“We will keep people constantly updated, every week, with reports on how this immense repair project is progressing.”

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