New trains costing $2 billion too wide to fit in tunnels


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The Australian government in action! An order of new trains for New South Wales in Australia, costing $2 billion, have been built 20 centimeters too wide to fit in the existing tunnels.

Their solution? A very typical government one:

But Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW), the Government body that manages the state’s rail system, has come up with a cunning plan. It has proposed simply relaxing current safety standards. In addition, 10 tunnels built in the 1900s will be partially modified to allow the new trains to run. [emphasis mine]

Reading the whole article is like entering the world of Bizarro. Here is how the government explains their plan: “This option would allow the New Intercity Fleet to operate on both lines and pass each other, and therefore ensure better longer term operational outcomes, while also minimising heritage impacts through reduced tunnel lining modifications.”

They make no mention of the collisions that might occur.

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8 comments

  • Commodude

    Safety standards are, after all, interpretive rules, so they’re subject to change on the whim of an inspector….

    Sorry, hits a nerve. Just spent a few hours today planning compliance with a new interpretation of a standard which has evidently been being misinterpreted by the entire industrial community for years.

  • Cotour

    And if and when there is a “problem” and someone is killed? How will that be “interpreted”?

    Someone somewhere at a desk or work station was tasked with determining and laying out some criteria for the specifications of said trains. I would think that there would be a fairly thick book produced dedicated to the specific subject. This would include the maximum allowable width for these bright and shinny and very expensive new trains.

    If I was the boss I would be very interested in the name or names of these individuals while we all contorted ourselves in our making the lemonade that fixes this screw up. But in the end, if I was the boss it would all come down on me, it would have been my responsibility to set and check the dimensions. And even so, stuff happens.

    But this is government, no one ultimately has any responsibility more than likely.

  • “And even so, stuff happens.”

    Like many here, I have experience in the difference between shop and as-built plans; but 20 cm?

    It appears from the article the new equipment will eat up half the minimum safety distance; a standard I assume was carefully studied and arrived at. The official line seems to be that the standards are overly restrictive, and can be safely ignored. Or people are taking additional risk. Whatever.

  • Mike Borgelt

    Anyone familiar with Australian defence procurement would not be surprised. We spent a billion dollars on 11 Seasprite helicopters for our Navy and got none because at the last moment someone discovered that the autopilot was a single channel device as specified in the contract but as we had decided on a two crew complement instead of the usual 3 the chopper wouldn’t be able to do its job at night or in instrument weather. I haven’t heard that anyone lost job/pension/went to jail over this.
    BTW the trains are a New South Wales State government screw up, not Australian federal gummint.

  • Garry

    Blair, I’m no expert and don’t know any more about this situation than what appears here, but I think the main factor that determines the safety margin is shaking of the train (in shipboard terms, the rolling component) as it goes through the tunnel. I don’t know how they calculated the maximum expected rolling motion, and I agree witth you; it appears someone determined that the old standard was too strict and therefore reduced it somewhat arbitrarily.

  • Cotour: This story was worth getting elevated to the main page. Thank you.

  • Steve Cooepr

    Sounds like someone was told to take off their engineering hat and put on their management hat.

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