Firefighter fears tunnel lifting of the alarm level

Emergency procedures at interchange stations such as Chatswood and Epping need to be coordinated between the private metro line operator and the state owned Sydney Trains.

Fire and Rescue NSW said the agency has been continuously reviewing resource needs for critical infrastructure such as subway lines “taking into account feedback from our firefighters, Sydney Metro and our other emergency management partners”.

Firefighters have raised concerns about emergency access to the subway tunnels.

Firefighters have raised concerns about emergency access to the subway tunnels.Credit:Flavio Brancaleone

Unlike the Sydney Trains network, Metro Northwest does not have a dedicated emergency call center, similar to that at Central Station, which monitors the underground network in the central business district, which is used by double-decker trains. The unit operates fire trucks equipped with wheels that can run on rails to get to incidents quickly, as well as battery-powered rail cars to transport equipment and rescue workers along the lines.

Sydney Metro said in a statement that the North West line has been designed so that “high-capacity, fast, safe trains can be used to reach emergencies from an adjacent tunnel.


“This provides a much quicker response than rail cars moving at very slow speeds,” the agency said.

“Metro systems have a very high level of fire safety and life safety precautions built into the network and require a different approach to incident management compared to traditional rail systems.”

Metro Trains Sydney, the private consortium led by Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation that operates the Northwest Line, said access to the tunnels could be via shafts that could be opened remotely for rescue workers.

“These access points are located approximately every 240 meters in each tunnel, allowing emergency services to access the tunnels and bring equipment in if necessary,” said Daniel Williams, managing director of Metro Trains Sydney.

A 2018 report for Transport for NSW – a year before the Northwest Metro opened – says the operator of the new line needs to equip its emergency response unit with “capabilities equivalent to those of the fire brigade team on Central for Sydney Trains”.

However, Williams said that unlike some rail networks, the Metro Northwest line’s “modern design and safety features” didn’t require a dedicated response unit.

Fire and Rescue NSW Deputy Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell said the agency was working closely with Sydney Metro to ensure the safety of firefighters, commuters and railway staff.

“We are committed to ensuring that there are workable solutions to any safety issues identified and we are in regular contact with Sydney Metro and the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator to achieve this,” he said.

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Justin Scacco

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