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New NSW trains to offer food and drink, fixed seats and toilets

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Jacob Saulwick, Ben Grubb

Residents of the Blue Mountains, Illawarra, central coast and the Hunter can expect to be able to buy "premium" train tickets with better seats and food and drink when new carriages are delivered from 2018.

The carriages are also likely to have seats that face only in one direction, and will not have three-in-a row seating configuration. 

NSW Premier Mike Baird and Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said on Thursday the government would spend about $2.8 billion buying about 65 new intercity trains for travel around Sydney and between neighbouring regions.

Buying new trains is a relatively rare event for state governments. The last trains the NSW government bought were the Waratah trains, ordered in 2006.

Because of production delays they did not start to arrive until 2011, and several have yet to go into operation in Sydney.

Ms Berejiklian said she hoped to avoid past delays by ordering the new trains "off the shelf" – a first for NSW.

This means that the trains would be largely the same as those used elsewhere, probably overseas. In the past, trains such as the Waratah have been designed specifically to operate in NSW.

Ms Berejiklian said industry consultation would start this month, and she hoped to have the first of about 520 new carriages in service by 2018. The final train would be expected by 2024.

Although the government has not released any details about the trains, they are likely to be double-deckers. 

They are unlikely to have three-in-a-row seating, which the government’s research found to be unpopular with commuters.

And they are also unlikely to include seats that can be flipped to face the other way. This option is rarely taken up internationally and adds to the cost of a train. 

Ms Berejiklian said the government hoped toilets would be available on all the new trains.

"Obviously, when you're travelling those longer distances, you should have onboard facilities like toilets," Ms Berejiklian said. "So I anticipate definitely there will be toilets, there will be more comfortable seating."

The Minister said she was open to ideas for "enhancing the costumer experience".

This could include the introduction of a class system in train travel in Sydney.

"If there are proposals where certain carriages can have that premium service where you can get refreshments, I’m definitely open to looking at that," she said.

"That’s what happens elsewhere in the world. Why should anyone travelling in NSW get less than what anyone else in the world is experiencing?"

The introduction of these trains would result in all trains in Sydney finally having airconditioning.

The new trains will take the place of the "Oscar" carriages now used on intercity runs. These Oscars will then replace the remaining silver, non-airconditioned trains in Sydney.

In stating that it will order trains "off the shelf", the government is delivering a blow to workers and companies based largely in the Hunter that have built and assembled previous train sets for Sydney.

"This sends a terrible signal to the local industry," Australian Manufacturing Workers Union NSW secretary Tim Ayres said. "We’ve got the capabilities to deliver high-quality trains to the government’s specifications."

Mr Ayres said that if the trains were not built in NSW it would cause the greatest jobs crisis for the Hunter since the closure of BHP.

The new fleet will be operated by NSW TrainLink, which the government created alongside Sydney Trains in place of RailCorp.

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