Two Sydney train lines will be closed for six hours on Wednesday August 10, in response to planned industrial action by the NSW Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU).
Trains on the T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra line and the South Coast line won’t run from 10am to 4pm. But the effects will be felt from around 6am, as trains are returned to stabling yards and depots in preparation for the industrial action. After trains resume, delays are still expected until around 8pm as trains are returned to the network. Though there will be limited replacement buses during the closure, they’ll only depart every 30 minutes and won’t be running between Sydenham and Bondi Junction.
The RTBU said in a statement that closing the entire Illawarra line was unnecessary, with 90 per cent of train crews still available to work tomorrow. “There is absolutely no reason for the Illawarra line to be shut down on Wednesday,” said RTBU’s NSW secretary Alex Claassens. “If it is shut down, it will be because Transport [NSW] bureaucrats have simply decided they don’t want to run the trains, not because they can’t.
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“The protected industrial action being taken by rail workers will, by design, impact very few workers at any one time. Only 10 per cent of drivers and guards will be affected by our industrial action. There are clearly more than enough workers and trains available to run some services for the people on the Illawarra line.”
Claassens says the RTBU has “gone to great lengths” to make sure the industrial action only “causes a headache” for management and the government, not commuters. It comes after the state government closed Sydney’s train network entirely back in February, blaming industrial action. Back then, the RTBU said workers had showed up to work, but were told no trains would be running.
The RTBU’s industrial action is an effort to get the NSW Government to address safety concerns on the network’s new intercity fleet. The union wants the government to sign a deed that guarantees it will make $264 million of modifications before making the fleet operational and, after that is signed off, to complete wage negotiations. But the government wants to tie the two in together.
Further industrial action is planned in the coming days and weeks – on August 12 cleaners won’t use vacuum cleaners or scrubbing machines, and on August 13 station staff will leave all gates open at all times. Plus, on August 31, there will be a ban on operating foreign-made trains – up to 75 per cent of the network’s fleet.