Sydney commuters are being warned to avoid non-essential travel on public transport this week, as the NSW Rail, Tram and Bus Union continues its industrial action. From 10am to 4pm today, August 23, services will be heavily reduced on the T1 North Shore & Western, T7 Olympic Park, T9 Northern, Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Newcastle lines, with no services at all on the T5 Cumberland line between Richmond and Leppington. Delays are still expected following the six-hour stoppage.
On Thursday August 25, all suburban trains will run to a reduced timetable, due to flow-on effects of a six-hour disruption of the City Circle line. Commuters can expect a heavily reduced timetable during peak hours.
The RTBU is taking a series of other actions in tandem with the stoppages. Until September 6, union-allied transport officers won’t be issuing fines or cautions, and station staff are leaving gates open at all times. There will still be transport officers at station gates monitoring whether people have valid tickets.
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Until September 6, train crews are only operating trains that “meet maintenance centre minimum standards”, which could reduce the number of trains on the network – the Sydney Morning Herald reports it took 37 trains out of action yesterday. These could include trains with intercom systems that don’t work, malfunctioning toilets and mechanical issues.
“Refusing to operate trains that don’t meet minimum safety standards is the most basic industrial action you can possibly get, but what it is doing is laying bare just how poorly our current trains are maintained,” said RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens in a statement.
Commuters can expect still more delays next week – on August 31 there will be a union ban on operating foreign-made trains, which could take up to 75 per cent of the network’s fleet out of action.
“As with previous strike actions, Tuesday and Thursday’s actions have been designed to cause a headache for management, but still allow commuter services to run,” said Claassens. “Our fight is never with commuters – it’s with management and the government. We’re doing this because we can’t allow commuters to get on unsafe trains, and that’s something we simply can’t back down on.”
The RTBU’s industrial action is an effort to force the NSW Government to address safety concerns on the network’s new intercity fleet. The union wants the government to sign a deed guaranteeing it will make $264 million of modifications before putting the fleet into service and, after that is signed off, to complete wage negotiations. But the government wants to tie the two in together.