Waratah trains back on track and running to scheduled timetables

Downer Group’s $3.6 billion Waratah train project is said to be back on track after numerous issues with software, design and delivery delays.

The ABC reported the announcement after Downer used yesterday’s Annual General Meeting to assure shareholders the troubles of the past are now over, saying the project is making significant progress with 18 passenger trains up and running on the Sydney network.

Waratah trains are being manufactured in China by Changchun Railway Vehicles Co Ltd (CRC) and assembled in Cardiff, outside of Newcastle; the 23rd train is scheduled for deliver to Railcorp by Christmas.

Downer Group’s CEO Grant Fenn told the ABC that while the project remains challenging, it now represents lower risk to the business. He said production rates in China have been increased to 3 trains a month and the Cardiff site is now also meeting production targets.

The first of the trains was commissioned in June 2011, 15 months late, prompting Manufacturers’ Monthly to ask is this an example of what goes wrong when Australian manufacturing companies don’t have a greater involvement in major rail projects?

The Australasian Railway Association's Garry Whiting says that Australian rail industry manufacturers have the capability to deliver on major projects, but there can be a difficulty in manufacturing at the rate of delivery required.

"Projects such as the Waratah should not be treated as one-off events, and the Federal Government should be taking a leadership role in long-term planning of infrastructure for Australia's cities. Modelling is required based on factors such as population growth and urban planning, and the related need for investment in rail infrastructure and rolling stock.

"For our manufacturers it's more an issue of the timeline required for production rather than the capability to build in Australia."

Earlier this year, Manufacturers’ Monthly reported Downer EDI has signed a new five year agreement with locomotive company Electro-Motive Diesel that will see locomotive manufacturing slowly move offshore over the next 2 years.

While "the demand for locomotives in Australia remains strong …this new agreement with EMD means Downer will be better positioned to meet our customers' demands for better value and shorter lead times," Fenn said.

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