Sydney braces for more transport chaos, with trains to operate at reduced capacity

While trains will return to the tracks today, they will operate on a reduced basis and commuters are urged to find alternative means of transport if possible. Photo: Gareth Edwards/Creative Commons 3.0.

By DAMIEN NOVAK

After yesterday’s total shutdown of the rail network, which inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders, Sydney’s trains will be running again today – but only on a limited basis.

Sydney Trains is once again warning commuters to find alternative means of transport, advising that while train trips would recommence, there would be fewer trains than usual, with services running at a minimum of 30-minute intervals.

Some 150 rail buses have been procured to assist the movement of passengers along major rail corridors, however another day of gridlock is expected across Sydney after yesterday’s chaos, which saw traffic backed up for more than 20 kilometres on arterial roads when commuters were forced off the rails.

Exacerbating the situation was an end to government ‘work from home’ Covid-19 advice, the resumption of university classes after the summer holidays and the re-opening of Australia’s international borders, which increased movements to and from Sydney Airport.

Unions and government representatives met at the Fair Work Commission yesterday to negotiate disputed matters around pay, safety, hygiene and privatisation but the ABC reported there was no resolution, with the matter adjourned until Wednesday.

In a statement, NSW Transport Minister David Elliott urged the rail union “to put their political agenda aside so Sydneysiders don’t face more interruptions”.

Alex Claassens from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union said rail workers would continue with their industrial action but that it would not disrupt today’s reduced timetable.

“We will try to make sure those services can continue as best as possible,” he said.

He described the arrangement as “clunky” but offered: “It does provide a level of service for people who have no other alternative, which we wanted to do.”

Yesterday, both sides blamed each other for the rail shutdown.

Claassens said Sydney Trains staff were preparing to arrive at work yesterday morning to participate in low-level industrial action, which would not have affected commuters – but were told by Transport for NSW the train network would not be operating.

Claassens accused the government of “spitting the dummy”, claiming “we’re ready to drive the trains whenever the NSW Government will let us” – but Transport for NSW claimed the industrial action rendered the network impossible to run safely.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet  accused the union of “being intent on causing chaos”, alleging: “This is a coordinated attack by the Labor Party and the union movement.”

Claassens, however, said rail workers were “shocked and horrified” to discover there were no train services: “There was no need for them to cancel services.”

He said the union had been trying to negotiate a new enterprise agreement since the old one expired nine months ago. 

The Transport Minister said the state government would continue to work through the union’s claims.

Train services are not expected to return to normal until at least 10am on Wednesday, when the matter is due to return to the Fair Work Commission.

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