‘Train apocalypse’ causes chaos across Sydney
COMMUTERS hoping to ease themselves into the new working year have found their efforts thwarted in Sydney with a slew of sick staff leading to massive delays on the transport network.
One commuter has said he was left waiting for 50 minutes at an inner city station which should have a train every 10 minutes. Another train user has dubbed the meltdown the "Sydney Trains apocalypse". One person claims to have missed their flight, at a cost of $1500, due to the train troubles.
There are fears the delays could seep into the evening peak hour, making the trip home from work a misery.
Transport for NSW, the government body that co-ordinates the state's transport, has said "staff availability" as well as a signalling problem is to blame. Earlier the organisation said the Sydney storms in the early hours affected equipment.
It's the latest stuff-up to beset the Sydney rail network following a controversial timetable change in November.
Seven of the eight Sydney rail lines are currently suffering from "ongoing delays". One line has had its rail service pared back to one train every half-hour so what drivers there are can be sent to busier routes.
The TripView transport app shows delays of up to 54 minutes to scheduled services on the T2 Inner West line and 73 minutes on the T8 Airport line. Delayed trains are continuing to run through the system albeit at disrupted, but still regular, intervals.
Only the T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra line, which is physically separate from the rest of the network, and NSW TrainLink regional trains are unaffected.
NSW Greens Transport spokeswoman Dr Mehreen Faruqi has slammed the slowdown and called on NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance to take responsibility.
"It's simply not credible for the Minister to say workers taking sick leave is responsible for Sydney's trains going into meltdown this week. The timetable overhaul has simply taken away all contingencies in the system, meaning breakdowns and delays ricochet through the system.
"The system is stretched to the limit and their response is to close down two train lines and hand them over to the private sector. I suspect this Government's strategy is to run the system into the ground to make the handover to the private sector more palatable, meanwhile the people suffer."
Tuesday's delays followed a series of cancellations on Monday which transport bosses blamed on "higher than expected instances of drivers and guards off sick, coinciding with those on leave during the holiday period".
In November, Sydney's rail system was overhauled with a new timetable that saw more trains and more frequent services.
However, there was criticism that less reliable trains, some four decades old, were being brought out of retirement to run the timetable and that there was less time for maintenance to keep the trains running.
New trains are due this year to replace some of the oldest models.
In mid-December, commuters were left stranded for hours and busy inner city stations were closed following a fatality on the tracks.
At the time, Sydney Trains' CEO Howard Collins denied the new timetable had made it more difficult to get the system back up and running.
"Whether this was the old timetable or the new one, under the circumstances we were facing yesterday, we would have seen the same effect," he said at the time.
Transport for NSW has been contacted for comment.