Back in August of 2020 Gladys Berejiklian told a Sydney media conference that “Australia and New South Wales are not good at building trains, that’s why we have to purchase them.” She conveniently overlooked that Victoria has been building its very successful suburban fleet for many years. In fact the Victorian Government has invested in more than 300 new Victorian built trains and trams since 2015, constructed by experienced local workers and apprentices. Meanwhile in NSW it seems the Spanish are also ‘not good’ at building trains, given the debacle currently unfolding with the inner west light rail.
Rather than encourage local industry, successive NSW governments have shopped internationally for all manner of trains, buses, ferries and trams. Invariably there have been problems and cost blow outs, often due to a lack of planning and liaison. If you travel on one of the new Indonesian built ferries on the Parramatta River you risk decapitation if you sit on the top deck. Not only have they been built too tall but it now seems many contained asbestos on arrival. You can duck and cover to avoid a beheading but in the end the mesothelioma will get you!
Our need to trawl the bargain basements of global transportation providers is a sad indictment of the decline of heavy manufacturing in this country. We lost the local car industry and many of the skilled workers it employed. At a time when all kinds of new technologies are coming into play we have missed a golden opportunity to fulfil many of our transportation needs using local factories and engineers.
But maybe it’s not all doom and gloom. A leaked report this week suggested that the NSW Government is looking to revitalise light rail in Sydney by adopting some old but highly innovative Soviet technology. Yes, we are talking turbo charged ‘jet power’. When the inner west light rail returns in about 18 months time, the carriages could well be retrofitted with enormously powerful jet engines. These would enable an express service to run from Dulwich Hill to Central in less than three minutes, reaching top speeds of around 150kph.
Of course, as one bureaucrat confided in me, “there would be the usual whingeing complaints from residents and greenies along the line, disturbed by the roar of the jet engines as they rumbled past.” He then quickly added “we’d pay them off with a $200 double glazing subsidy, a $25 restaurant voucher and a week’s worth of free rides.” Once the public accepted the ‘jetrification’ of the inner west line, it would be quickly extended to cover the entire light rail network. There would be no complaints whatsoever about the slowness of service when the driver easily drags off an errant Ferrari along Anzac Parade.
With many Australian passenger aircraft still mothballed in the Mohave desert and Central Australia, there would be no problem in doing a deal with Alan Joyce at QANTAS to acquire any number of second hand jet engines to beef up not only the light rail but the ferries and even some of the South Korean built inner city trains. It’s just a shame the Monorail was demolished back in 2013. Imagine the tourist potential if you could blast around the city via Darling Harbour with a velocity approaching one of Jeff Bezos’s rockets.
Perhaps the best news of all this week, is that the State Government bargain shoppers have discovered an entire fleet of these Russian built jet trains in a rail yard in Siberia. Sure they look a little rusty, but we’re told they are still fully operational and with a coat of red paint they would be as good as new. Best of all, like the South Korean trains, the Indonesian ferries and those slightly problematic Spanish trams – they are going dirt cheap!