TENDERING of infrastructure maintenance work worth A$500m was halted indefinitely in February by New South Wales Transport Minister Carl Scully, following pressure by the Public Transport Union. SRA’s 6500 staff maintaining infrastructure and some rolling stock were regrouped into the Rail Services Authority in July 1996 (RG 7.96 p418). RailAccess Corp let the first three contracts in July 1997 (but none to RSA), and was preparing to award the other 13.

RSA now employs 4500 workers, and the PTU claims that all their jobs are at risk. In reality, many would transfer to the winning contractors, given the specialist skills required. However, the tendering process was expected to cut RAC’s annual bill for maintenance by some A$300m which could only be achieved through a loss of jobs, not to mention benefits enjoyed by rail workers. David Tasker of John Holland Construction & Engineering estimates that firms had spent over A$10m preparing and tendering for the contracts. John Kirk of the Australasian Railway Association said that ’having invested in good faith’ bidders would be ’concerned that the process has now been put on hold.’

To fund the higher maintenance bill, cuts will be needed elsewhere. Opening Sydney’s Olympic Park station on March 8 (p215), NSW Premier Bob Carr stressed the vital role that CityRail would play in the 2000 Olympic Games. Alas SRA bungled the tendering for new trains to carry the crowds, so it is now impossible to get more than a handful of trains into service by the Olympics. Perhaps the cash can be diverted to pay RAC’s inflated costs.