SYDNEY, AAP – New bus and ferry services will replace Sydney’s cracked, foreign-built trams, with the NSW transport minister confident they’ll be back sooner than the 18 month “worst-case scenario”.
The new bus services will run from Lilyfield to Central Station via Glebe and another from Dulwich Hill to Pyrmont’s Star Casino over the Anzac Bridge.
The third service will loop between Central and the casino.
A new ferry service from Blackwattle Bay to Barangaroo will also run during the day on weekdays, carrying up to 45 passengers per trip under halved-capacity COVID-19 limits.
The new services will begin on Monday.
About 10,000 people per day are using the existing replacement services, which is about a third of what the light rail’s capacity was before the pandemic.
“Everyone is focused on the important thing, which is getting the trams back safely with a permanent fix,” Transport for NSW chief operations officer Howard Collins said on Thursday.
Engineers from the trams’ Spanish manufacturer are providing advice and “two very expert and experienced engineers” will fly to the UK to meet colleagues in Birmingham at the weekend, where similarly cracked trams are being fixed.
They hope to gain some insight into how the repairs could take place in Australia and how they can set up “the sort of operating theatre that we want to create”, Mr Collins said.
Transport Minister Rob Stokes originally said the trams would be off the tracks for up to 18 months and has repeatedly stressed that is the “worst-case scenario”.
“I’m confident we will be able to come back with something shorter than the worst case,” he said.
Opposition transport spokeswoman Jo Haylen said “this is what happens when the government privatises our transport system and buys shoddy trams, trains and ferries from overseas”.
Mr Stokes, who has been transport minister for less than two months, said his “preference will always be to see what we can do to support Australian families and Australian business”.
“I can’t really comment on history but I can talk about the future, and I think there are lessons in what has occurred here,” Mr Stokes said.
“I think there is a strong case for rebuilding that Australian manufacturing capability.”
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet defended the state’s public transport system as the best in the world during question time on Thursday.
“We have more public transport investments than ever before in our state’s history. There is more happening when it comes to investment in public transport in NSW than anywhere else in the country,” Mr Perrottet says.