Looming Perth airport train line opening date sparks concern among train drivers

There are concerns the completion of Perth’s new airport train line will be hit, with the train driver’s union saying the tunnel was still considered a construction site and had not been handed over to the government for assessment.

Transport minister Rita Saffioti announced the Forrestfield Airport Link would open on October 10 at a press conference last month, following years of delays.

That date is now just three weeks away, but the secretary of the Rail, Trams and Bus Union (RTBU), Joshua Dekuyer, said his members were starting to get nervous because the line was still considered a construction site and was yet to be handed to the Public Transport Authority (PTA).

“If it’s given to the PTA just before opening, it limits our members’ ability to ensure that current and accurate and relevant risk assessments [are] … carried out in time,” he said.

A woman with blonde hair in a high-vis jacket.
Transport minister Rita Saffioti has invited the media to ride-along on the new airport rail line tomorrow.

Questions remain over phone reception

Adding to those concerns was the history of the project, which in 2018 saw a worker suffer a serious head injury, before work was delayed for a year because of a sinkhole.

“The Metronet project, and the airport line, it’s to be commended – but it has been plagued with safety and engineering issues over its construction, testing and commissioning stages,” Mr Dukeyer said.

“I’m sure many of them have been rectified and I believe there’s some that might be still outstanding, but we need to see and need to be made comfortable that all that stuff has been addressed.

“We’re not saying it’s not ready, we’re just saying we just want to be made sure that it is ready.”

A section of train line that is in an underground tunnel.
The Public Transport Authority wants to assess the new train line from a health and safety perspective.(Supplied: State government)

Mr Dukeyer said he understood only phones using Telstra worked within the line’s tunnels, but said he was not sure if that was still the case because of limited access to the line.

“We don’t even really know what some of the issues might be because we haven’t been in there to see it and a lot of our members haven’t been in there to go through it from an OHS perspective,” he said .

After requesting information from the PTA earlier this month, the RTBU was meeting with both the government and the state’s public transport operator today.

The exterior of Perth Airport's train station in the foreground with the air traffic control tower in the background.
The opening of the new train line is only three weeks away.(ABC News: James Carmody)

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