(News to Me) South Coast Woes

It would seem that commuters from The South Coast Line, which stretches from Sydney Central south to Bomaderry, serving the major centres of Wollongong, Albion Park and Kiama (among many others) simply keep getting a raw deal. Or at least, this is what the commuters on the line would have people believe.

A V-Set heads south towards Wollongong over The Como Bridge
A V-Set heads south towards Wollongong over The Como Bridge

ABC News recently reported on the withdrawl of some OSCAR (Outer Suburban Car) trains from pool which South Coast Line services are drawn. Most intercity and interurban trains are drawn from the same sector, be they the venerable V-Set trains (which are all maintained at Flemmington Maintenence Centre, in inner west Sydney) through to the brand new OSCAR trains (which are all maintained at Eveleigh maintenence centre at Redfern in the inner city). The only exception is the G-Set Outer Suburban Tangaras, which (until recently) have only seen very limited service on The South Coast Line, ever since the rollout en-masse of the OSCAR trains.

Some OSCAR trains are being withdrawn from South Coast service in 2009 to be used on the new Epping to Chatswood Rail Link (ECRL), due to the steep grades and loud noise levels inside the tunnels (which are of a magnitude not seen in Sydney before). Those OSCAR trains being taken out of South Coast service are being replaced by the oldest trains in the fleet, the V-Set Intercity trains (see photo). To listen to the media and the commuters, it would sound like the brand new trains are being taken away from the line to be used elsewhere, and clapped out old rolling stock is being used to replace them. Certainly, that is not far from the truth.

Kiama bound OSCAR at Unanderra. Soon to be back to a V-Set roster perhaps?
Sydney bound OSCAR at Unanderra. Soon to be back to a V-Set roster perhaps?

Regular Trackside readers would remember this article, published July 3rd. The article was in response to a critique made by Railway Digest contributor Phillip Clarke of the OSCAR trains. Among the issues Phillip had with the trains were (first and foremost) the increased capacity of the OSCAR trains at the expense of passenger comfort (especially on longer journeys) , and the reduction of toilet facilites on the OSCAR trains when compared to the V-Set trains they were replacing. Phillip was not alone in these views, which were shared by a number of regular South Coast Commuters, a number of whom completely ignored the benefits of the OSCAR trains (higher capacity, increased saftey and security for passengers, disability accessable toilet facilities and so forth), and instead lamented the withdrawl of the V-Set trains. Indeed, it would seem that some commuters conveniently ignored the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars had been spent to ensure that their line was given a completely new set of rolling stock before any other lines in Sydney – it would be a number of months after the introduction of the OSCAR before the new trains would be seen working services to Gosford/Wyong, commuters on The Northern Line would instead have to make do with Outer Suburban Tangara trains.

Now it seems, the reverse is true. The commuters and media lament the loss of the brand new OSCAR trains, complaining that they are being taken away to be given to another line, and are instead being lumped with clapped out old silver trains. Yet, it was the very features of these trains that they were lamenting the loss of when the OSCAR trains first came online! V-Sets (as mentioned in the previous article on this website) feature two by two reversable seating, air conditioning, no shortage of bathrooms (an equivialant amount of one per carriage on the train, instead of the one for every four cars on the OSCAR trains).

Northbound OSCAR crossing The Princes Highway at Unanderra
Northbound OSCAR crossing The Princes Highway at Unanderra

The South Coast Line is not returning to the condition it was in before the introduction of the OSCAR trains, when a shortage of V-Set intercity stock and G-Set Outer Suburban Tangaras meant that  South Coast Line trains (especially peak hour services) were being made up of T-Set Tangara (suburban) trains, with their commuter seating and no toilet facilities at all.

Finally, where are these V-Sets coming from? It is well known in Sydney that the V-Set (a very popular train with commuters from The Blue Mountains, South Coast, Ilawarra, Central Coast and Newcastle) is in short supply, so they must be withdrawn from one line to be used on another. It would seem that Central Coast Line services to Gosford and Wyong, traditionally served by four or six car V-Set trains are being replaced by OSCAR trains. Next we will be hearing about how hard the Central Coast Commuters have it. Never mind that the last new suburban train was the Millenium train, introduced from 2000, which only runs on the south west. Never mind that commuters from Penrith, Blacktown and Richmond areas are still being forced onto already overcrowded, non-airconditioned trains.

Source: ABC News “South Coas’t OSCAR carriages to be replaced” 23/12/08

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