NSW commuters have endured another disrupted morning peak, with more to come on the journey home on Friday, after talks between unions and the state government stalled.
There were major delays across the railway network on Friday morning, as trains ran to a weekend timetable and commuters – especially in Sydney – were forced to cram into fewer carriages.
Train services ran at just 30 per cent capacity after drivers imposed a ban on operating the state’s Waratah, Millennium and OSCAR train sets.
One commuter said he had little sympathy for train drivers and did not know why they were taking industrial action.
“I don’t think anybody is particularly on the side of the train drivers this time around, unfortunately,” he told the ABC.
“A lot of my colleagues are struggling and it’s just affecting people’s ability to come in and earn some money.”
But others were more understanding.
“The trains are really crowded, they’re coming really late but if it’s a safety issue then I’m in full support of the drivers,” one woman said.
The action is part of the RTBU’s long-running stoush with the state government over the controversial Korean-built rail fleet. The union argues the Perrottet government has refused to sign a deal that locks in fixes to safety issues raised by drivers.
The RTBU said there was a “long way to go” in the fight. It wants a signed legal document confirming its demands will be met before it calls off action.
On Friday morning, RTBU state secretary Alex Claassens said concrete action was needed from the government before the union budged.
While the government has signalled it could be prepared to spend $264 million to modify the fleet, the union accuses it of stonewalling on a written deal.
Mr Claasens said union action was “going to continue to escalate until such time as we have got a signed deed in our hand”.
“Then we can then go back to the negotiating table to do our conditions and our wages which we haven’t even talked about yet,” he told ABC television.
“[We] have had no conversations about those wages at all …There is a long way to go yet.”
The union argues a written document is needed because previous government offers were followed by backflips due to internal politics.
At a meeting with the government on Thursday, the union claims elements of the modification offer were taken off the table, worrying members that another backtrack loomed.
“My members will not listen to the ‘trust me’ moment anymore, we need to see a document,” Mr Claasens said.
Transport Minister David Elliott insisted the fleet was safe, but confirmed the union would see a written deal on Friday.
“That is the outrageous situation that the union movement and the Labor Party have put us into,” Mr Elliott told the ABC.
“The independent safety regulator has said there are no safety concerns for these trains.”
Earlier this week Mr Elliott said the government had offered railway workers $3000 bonuses to return to work. The union has described that as “bribes”.
Commuters were also advised to expect further rail delays and cancellations on Friday afternoon. There will be reduced services on the T1 North Shore & Western, T2 Inner West and Leppington, T3 Bankstown, T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra, the T8 Airport & South, and the T9 Northern Line.
NSW TrainLink, which operates regional and intercity train and coach services, warned that commuters in outer metro areas also faced disruptions. It urged passengers to delay non-essential travel on regional trains.
Elsewhere, roads were especially busy on Friday as many commuters gave up on public transport altogether and took to their private vehicles.
– with AAP