New South Wales Transport Minister Andrew Constance has refused to refund rail users inconvenienced by three days of train chaos.
In a tense press conference held at Martin Place Station in the heart of Sydney, Mr Constance was grilled about the city’s public transit meltdown.
When asked about refunds for affected commuters, Mr Constance said: ‘We need the funding to run the services and pay the staff.’
When asked about refunds for affected commuters, Mr Constance said: ‘We need the funding to run the services and pay the staff’ (pictured are delayed customers on Tuesday)
‘Ultimately, we are going to try to fix this for people, and that’s the main message for people.’
When asked by reporters whether that meant there would be no refunds, Mr Constance claimed he had answered the question.
‘I’ve answered the question very clearly, as I’ve indicated we need to continue to fund services and fund our staff.’
State Opposition leader Luke Foley said the Berejiklian Government needed to ‘immediately’ refund train passengers for Monday and Tuesday’s travel fares.
‘This is a train service reminiscent of a Third World city,’ he told reporters.
‘I challenge him [Mr Constance] to give a refund to the Sydney travelling public … the public transport service has been no service at all.’
Weary commuters are dealing with third day of rail chaos in Sydney, with early morning services delayed and cancelled.
The city’s train system collapsed on Tuesday, leaving thousands of passengers stranded and packed onto platforms in stormy weather.
Delays started on Monday with up to 70 drivers calling in sick, and worsened yesterday when lightning damaged signal equipment during an early thunderstorm.
At the Wednesday press conference Mr Constance apologised for the ongoing debacle and admitted it been ‘a mess’.
‘We had a spike in sick leave, that said though we now need to test how we respond to critical incidents across the network,’ he said.
At 5am on Wednesday frustrated rail users were already reporting cancelled and delayed services.
‘And so it begins,’ said one passenger, highlighting a delayed 5:26am service.
Commuters seeking alternative ways of getting to work put pressure on the Uber and taxi networks, resulting in driver shortages in parts of the city.
‘Was “on time” when I stupidly made the call to get out of bed at 5am.’
By 8am five lines were experiencing delays – The North Shore line, the Western Line, Airport/South line, Inner West line, the Leppington line and the Cumberland line.
Sydney Trains CEO Howard Collins said train services are ‘running well’ and denied there were any staff shortages.
‘We had a blip of genuine sickness yesterday,’ he told Sunrise.
‘It is back to normal today, certainly numbers were higher than what the union representative was aware of in terms of sickness total which impacted us.’
Notifications from the city’s train lines told a different story, with a number of shortages announced due to staff shortages.
Mr Foley again slammed the government on Monday morning, telling Sunrise the crowded platforms on Tuesday night were a safety hazard.
‘I experienced it for myself last night trying to get home from the city, at Town Hall Station, frankly it was a danger to public safety,’ he said.
‘Six weeks in and the services are unacceptable, the timetable is not worth the paper it’s written on as train services are being cancelled.’
State Opposition leader Luke Foley again slammed the government, telling Sunrise the crowded platforms on Tuesday night were a ‘risk to public safety’.
On the North Shore, Northern and Western line, trains were running at a reduced frequency due to staff availability and yesterday’s storm damage.
The Inner West line had major delays due to staff availability, and the Bankstown line had buses replacing trains between Bankstown and Cabramatta.
The Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra line has experienced delays, as has the Cumberland line.
The Airport and South line, the Olympic Park line and the Carlingford line all had buses replacing trains.
Rail Tram and Bus Union State Secretary Alex Claassens said covert industrial action was not to blame for the staff shortages, 2GB reported.
‘There is no covert industrial action. That’s not the way we do business,’ he told Steve Price.
‘There were only 10 extra drivers called in sick the other day, over and above the normal 40 that are off on any given day.’
‘We have never done this sort of industrial espionage, that’s not our game.’
‘Scheduled train service cancellations across the network on Monday have not only inconvenienced commuters, but have also puzzled workers who are trying to get to the bottom of why Sydney Trains management has started cancelling vital services.
‘One minute, Sydney Trains management said that the cancellations were due to an excessive amount of approved leave, then it was track work, then they changed their minds and decided to blame workers taking sick leave, and on Twitter, they’ve even blamed “reduced customer demand” and the weather.
‘After investigations, we believe that there has been no abnormal spike in sick leave today by train drivers and is another attempt by Sydney Trains to demonise their hard working and dedicated Drivers to hide their own failings.’