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Abandoned: paperwork bungle puts out passengers and stops weekend trackwork

THE NSW government has revealed RailCorp regularly mismanages trackwork, forcing thousands onto buses on weekends when little work is done.

The Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, yesterday announced the first stage of an overhaul of the rail system, including hundreds of job cuts, the break-up of RailCorp, and a new division for cleaning. RailCorp will be split into NSW Trains and Sydney Trains.

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The former will operate CountryLink services and those from Newcastle, the central coast, the Illawarra, Blue Mountains and southern highlands. Sydney Trains will operate the rest.

''For too long we've been asking taxpayers and customers to put up with services that aren't as good as they should be,'' Ms Berejiklian said.

''There's no doubt that RailCorp is the most overly bureaucratised and top-heavy organisation in the NSW public service.''

Material distributed at the news conference went further. One ''case study'' revealed that on a weekend in November, RailCorp shut the Newcastle, central coast and northern lines for $8.5 million worth of trackwork but it was not done because of a paperwork bungle.


''There was confusion between RailCorp and its plant hire contractors over the use of certain heavy equipment,'' a media release said. ''Contractors were frustrated and withdrew their plant from RailCorp worksites.''

Asked how the changes would improve trackwork practices, Ms Berejiklian said: ''This multi-layered bureaucracy stifles innovation, slows decision making and makes it more difficult for employees to do their jobs.''

The minister said there would be 750 voluntary redundancies in middle management. Frontline services would not be affected but she would not detail the types of jobs to go, nor how much the cuts would save.

The rationale for splitting RailCorp is that passengers travelling long distances have different needs to those on shorter trips across Sydney.

''For too long RailCorp has tried to be all things to all people,'' Ms Berejiklian said.

The minister said passengers travelling from Newcastle, for instance, should have more comfortable seating. Inner-city passengers needed more frequent services.

A government-owned subsidiary will be created to take charge of cleaning but with commercial performance benchmarks.

Rail unions did not rule out industrial action and were upset they had not been informed of the cuts.

The NSW secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, Alex Claassens, said: ''Nobody can deny that we need improvements … But what we do want is sensible reform and proper consultation with all the stakeholders.''

The NSW branch secretary of the Australian Services Union, Sally McManus, said: ''You can't say you are going to lose jobs, and service quality is going to go up; it's illogical.''