Transport Minister Andrew Constance has again apologised to Sydney rail commuters for major disruptions but said the detection of a cracked rail track early on Monday ensured the state was not facing a “major derailment in a tunnel with a fully laden train”.
Commuters endured delays to services during the morning peak after sonar technology picked up a cracked rail on the underground line between Wynyard and Town Hall. It forced authorities to close the busy City Circle line in one direction while the track was replaced.
Fending off calls from the Opposition for him to resign from the transport portfolio, Mr Constance said the right decision had been made to replace the cracked track during the morning peak.
“They kept the trains moving, and at the same time, if they hadn't of [fixed the track], we could have faced a major derailment in a tunnel during the peak with a full-laden train,” he said.
“We are very focused on customer safety. I apologise for the inconvenience caused but I am not going to apologise for us investing in safety like we have.”
Sydney's rail network has suffered a large number of major disruptions this year, most recently on Saturday when signal equipment repairs at Redfern caused delays. A week earlier, IT failures crippled the rail network.
However, Mr Constance said the incidents were “largely unrelated”, and he cited the billions of dollars the government was spending on the rail network amid a 30 per cent increase in trips over the past five years to more than 400 million annually.
The rail network will be placed under greater pressure late next month when the Epping-to-Chatswood rail line is closed for seven months to convert it to carry single-deck metro trains.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian also apologised to passengers for the disruptions but said she was glad the sonar technology had picked up the crack in the track.
“If it wasn't picked up, it could have had tragic consequences. It's really important for us to put safety first,” she said. “I want the travelling public to know that we are moving heaven and earth to prevent these incidents from occurring but also investing billions of dollars in the existing network.”
And she said she “absolutely” had confidence in Mr Constance overseeing the rail network.
Earlier, NSW Labor leader Luke Foley demanded the Premier remove Mr Constance from the transport portfolio after the repeated rail failures in recent months.
“Andrew Constance is a big part of the problems on the Sydney Trains network and he’s certainly not part of the solution,” he said.
“These incidents are happening way too regularly and the common feature is when something goes wrong, there is a meltdown that lasts for the entire day.”