Sydney commuters have battled with a train network in meltdown during Monday night’s peak hour, lashing out on social media after some were told to expect “indefinite delays”.
At Central Station, eight out of 10 train lines were not running to a timetable, with no expected departure times available.
Travellers were turned away from certain platforms at Central and Wynyard due to significant overcrowding.
Sydney Trains angered many by telling them to avoid trains and instead catch buses due to extended delays expected to continue into the evening.
“WE JUST WANT TO GO HOME. LOCAL BUS ROUTE ISN’T POSSIBLE,” said one commuter on Twitter.
— Clare Blumer (@clareblumer) January 9, 2018
Trains are running at a reduced frequency across the network due to sick train drivers and “earlier incidents”, Sydney Trains has said.
This is the second day of mayhem, with significant delays for many commuters returning to work yesterday. Many are now calling on Sydney Trains to offer free travel as compensation.
Sydney Trains said on Tuesday between 65 and 70 train drivers were off due to illness, but the Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW Locomotive Division has slammed the explanation as a “cover up”.
“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,” the union said in a statement.
— Clare Blumer (@clareblumer) January 9, 2018
“After investigations, we believe that there has been no abnormal spike in sick leave today by train drivers and [this] is another attempt by Sydney Trains to demonise their hard-working and dedicated drivers to hide their own failings!
“It’s absurd to think that a few workers falling ill would cause disruptions across the whole transport network.”
Many commuters are desperate to get on board the limited trains running, forcing themselves into crammed carriages.
For commuter Louise Harding, her usual 15-minute commute on the train had already taken one hour.
“It was packed and so hot and you get claustrophobic after a while, and you feel a bit sick,” she said.
This took me 3 hours.
3 hours. I’m finally home.
I have a migraine. I couldn’t even go grocery shopping because I didn’t want to risk caching another train & getting stranded again.
Sydney trains is a disaster. pic.twitter.com/kWzmBM1Etv
— VERY stable genius (@miniestmini) January 9, 2018
Packed into Wynyard station with what must be half of Sydney. Platforms closed due to overcrowding. It’s sweltering in here and announcements telling us to ‘be patient’ every 2 mins. Not impressed #sydneytrains
— Chloe Barber-Hancock (@wordnerdchloe) January 9, 2018
She said the train had to stop on approach to Central as there was another train ahead.
“I really don’t understand why the city hasn’t worked out what to do in this sort of situation,” she said.
Just over a month ago there was a major overhaul of the city’s public transport network which the RBTU said had been “shambolic since day one”.
Sydney Trains defended its new timetable but chief executive Howard Collins acknowledged unexpected issues need to be better managed.
“What we’re finding now is that because we’ve got more trains out there, when we do get a problem on the railway, it has a bigger knock-on effect,” Mr Collins said.
Good work #cityrail. All platforms at Wynyard closed off because of congestion. Missed my train as a result. After I spent 30 mins stuck between stations this morning. It’s not like it’s London or New York. Tiny commuter numbers in comparison. pic.twitter.com/GHqhxVogah
— Jane Wardell (@TheJaneWardell) January 9, 2018
“We are recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. Seventy-four graduates through there and we aren’t turning off the taps until we get even more drivers and guards on the system.”
New timetable was rushed: union
Rail, Tram and Bus Union representative Alex Claassens said the new timetable was introduced without being properly resourced.
“We all know that we needed more trains. The problem is that they’ve gone ahead and made promises for all these new trains when the growth trains aren’t ready yet,” Mr Claassens said.
“They’ve had to go out, we’ve had to bring trains out of mothballs, there’s no spare trains in the system and there’s no spare drivers and guards so of course it’s going to be a problem when people get tired, rushed and fatigued.”
Mr Collins defended claims the new timetable was rushed into action causing this week’s delays.
“We’ve had that for the last two days but look back over the last month and we have seen an improved service, particularly at weekends, a reliable service,” he said.
“It is true to say that when big incidents occur the service takes more time to recover.”
Mr Collins said the timetable should run as normal on Tuesday evening.