Meltdowns on the rail network have cost New South Wales taxpayers $1.4 million in taxi fares over the past year, documents obtained by Labor under freedom of information have revealed.
Train drivers were deployed to other stations to fill shortages and taken home by cab when required, while passengers were taxied to the airport if they had been stranded by a broken down, cancelled or late train.
It cost more than $1.4 million from March last year to February, with the average monthly bill costing $116,000.
But that figure skyrocketed to $278,429 in January when the rail network suffered repeated meltdowns.
The fares included a $672 journey from Central Station to Menangle Park, past Campbelltown in Sydney’s outer southwest.
A Central to Appin journey cost $601, and a trip to Waterfall was $570.
Labor waste watch chair Hugh McDermott told The New Daily high taxi expenses was the result of mismanagement. Most of the journeys were to get train drivers to stations sometimes on the other side of the city because of a shortfall in crew, he said.
A Sydney Trains spokesperson said taxi use was continuously monitored and only provided when no public transport is available.
“Sydney Trains works hard to ensure our services are punctual and customers arrive at their destination on time. However from time to time, a number of factors can affect our services, including severe weather or fatal incidents.
“When this occurs, we sometimes use taxis to transport our staff to various locations at short notice, often late at night or early in the morning when no public transport is available.”
The spokesperson said crew sometimes suffer workplace injury or experience traumatic incidents on the job.
“It is our duty of care to ensure they receive the appropriate support to get them home safely.”
Mr McDermott said drivers were often finishing their shift on the other side of the city.
It’s understood Sydney Trains crew have home depots, but they are taxied to another depot if needed. To compare, Queensland Rail crew working in Brisbane can be deployed to any depot and they are required to get themselves to each shift.
The annual $1.4 million figure could pay the salaries of another dozen train drivers, based on the estimated $113,000 package including penalty rates, allowances and superannuation. The government made that estimation earlier this year before a new enterprise agreement was brokered, delivering an annual 3 per cent raise for three years.
Mr McDermott said taxi fares appeared to have increased following “crisis after crisis” caused by the new train timetable. The timetable, introduced in November, added 1500 extra weekly services. Sydney Trains cut back 94 off-peak services in March to reduce the network’s vulnerability.
In a statement on Sunday, the Labor MP said the January figures could cover the cost of 252 overnight hospital stays or fund the salaries of two hospital nurses or teachers.
“This is money that should be spent on schools and hospitals, not on papering over the Transport Minister’s inadequacies. Clearly this is a government with the wrong priorities,” he said.
“Commuters are already suffering through big delays and unreliable services. Now they are also paying to ferry drivers around the minister’s dysfunctional network.”