Cancellations Heralds More Rail Pain on Sydney’s Train Network

RAIL users have been warned to expect delays and cancellations on Monday morning as Sydney’s train shambles continues.

The union representing rail staff warned weeks ago Monday 15 January was likely to be a particularly challenging day as it claimed too much staff leave had been granted by transport bosses.

On Sunday, Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) NSW Secretary Alex Claassens said it was a “ridiculous” state of affairs that Sydney’s train system was breaking at the seams from “foreseen events”.

Sydney Trains has announced that almost 40 services will be cancelled in the morning and evening peaks on Monday. In addition, some services will be replaced by buses while repairs to a major junction could see delays on top of those already expected.

Last week, scores of trains were cancelled or delayed and many passengers found journeys that should have taken minutes dragging on for hours.

Commuters should expect delays and cancellations on Monday morning. Picture: Jonathan Ng

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the delays were a combination of staff leave and an “act of God” due to a series of lightning strikes during inclement weather. However, he conceded that a controversial timetable recast, introduced in November, may need to be revisited to provide more slack in the system.

On Monday, 38 services will be cancelled. These will be concentrated on the T2 Inner West and Leppington lines, T3 Bankstown line, T5 Cumberland line and T8 Airport line.

Also, T7 Olympic Park line trains will be halved with buses covering the axed journeys.

While no cancellations are planned on the busy T1 Western, North Shore and Northern lines, Sydney Trains has warned the conclusion of engineering works to a junction at Hornsby, in Sydney’s north, may lead to delays.

“We have cancelled a small number of trains on Monday due to staff availability,” said a Sydney Trains spokesman.

“Our priority is to provide customers with regular trains and to ensure there are no large gaps in service.

“To minimise disruptions we have analysed load data and cancelled services that are typically the least busy, are outside of peak hours or have another train scheduled soon after it.”

The organisation said the 38 cancellations were small when compared to the 2900 services run on a standard weekday.

The RTBU have said the problems are all of Sydney Trains’ own making.

“Sydney’s new train timetable will be under pressure again on Monday due to an excess of approved leave by Sydney Trains, as well as the reopening of the Hornsby junction,” the RTBU’s Mr Claassens said on Sunday.

“It’s ridiculous that in a city like Sydney, we have a timetable that is so poorly designed that it may struggle to get commuters to and home from work on Monday because of these foreseen events.

“We’ve been warning for months that this timetable won’t be able to cope with even minor issues, and that the smallest of incidents could send the network into chaos. And that’s exactly what’s happened last week, and likely to happen again on Monday.”

On Thursday, the union met Transport for NSW and Sydney Trains to discuss the timetable. Both Sydney Trains and the Transport Minister have conceded that some adjustments may be needed to train times to allow for services to recover after unexpected outages.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union’s Alex Claassens said they were willing to work with the government.

However, Mr Constance has rejected calls to reinstate the previous timetable and has said a growing city needs more train services.

Mr Claassens said rail staff had not been involved with the new timetable.

“The workers are willing to do whatever we can to help get this timetable back on track, because we — just like commuters — just want to be able to put this mess behind us and get back to doing our job properly.

“If we were involved in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this mess, but we are where we are and all the workers want to do now is get on with the job of getting our transport system back on track.”

The RTBU is in the middle of wage negotiations with the State Government. They are calling for a 6 per cent pay rise per annum, far above the Government’s offer of 2.5 per cent.

“The Government will agree to a pay rise for train drivers in accordance with the wages policy — a policy that applies to teachers, nurses, police and all public sector employees,” Mr Constance said last week.