Major backflip on plans for emergency exits in rail tunnels

Underscoring the extent of the dispute, Fire Rescue NSW said in the correspondence last year that it “does not agree with Sydney Metro that it is acceptable to create a subterranean environment where emergency services are unable to intervene in the event of an emergency however unlikely”.

However, Fire and Rescue NSW assistant commissioner Trent Curtin said it had reached agreement with Sydney Metro on Wednesday to implement the 240-metre Australian standard for cross-passage spacings.

“FRNSW will continue to work with Sydney Metro to ensure the safety design principles in the Australian standards are met,” he said.

A Sydney Metro spokeswoman said both agencies had agreed to cross-passage spacing of about 240 metres except in areas where such a distance was not possible due to ground conditions or water pressure.

“Continued collaboration between both agencies has led to an outcome that ensures the safety of emergency services personnel, commuters, railway staff and construction workers,” she said.

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Fire Brigade Employees’ Union state secretary Leighton Drury welcomed the about-turn by Sydney Metro, saying tunnel cross-passages every 240 metres would now make them more suitable for emergency workers in an incident. “This is a significant victory for emergency services and the travelling public,” he said.

The union had been pressuring the government for weeks to compel Sydney Metro to build emergency exits 240 metres apart on the new rail lines.

A risk assessment by Sydney Metro two years ago calculated that 44 extra cross-passages will need to be built for Metro West if spacings are at 240 metre intervals, and an additional 23 for the new airport line. Each cross-passage was estimated at the time to cost about $1.5 million.

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