Sydney commuters are being urged to work from home or seek alternative transport arrangements after all rail services in greater Sydney were suspended due to an industrial dispute.

“Please avoid travel wherever possible, use alternative modes of transport and allow extra travel time on other modes of transport,” NSW Transport tweeted this morning.

Commuters are being told to use buses, light rail and ferry services. All NSW Trainlink intercity trains are affected, including from the Blue Mountains, Newcastle and Kiama.

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The incident is part of an ongoing dispute between the state government and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) over altered work schedules and pay and conditions for train workers. Negotiations broke down last night, resulting in today’s shutdown of train services.

RTBU NSW secretary, Alex Claassens, says the shutdown of the train networks is not because of union action – workers turned up to work this morning, intending to take less disruptive action, but were told by management that trains would not be running today, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Talking on radio this morning, Sydney Trains chief executive Matt Longland said, “It’s going to be a very difficult day.”

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This article was corrected on February 21 at 9.50am to reflect comments made by the RTBU. A previous version described the dispute as a “strike”.