Public transport users are being warned to prepare for three days of headaches as a tram strike and rail works hit the network.
Melbourne’s trams will be replaced by buses on Friday as drivers walk off the job over a pay dispute.
Then from Friday night, trains on nine lines will be replaced by buses until the last service on Sunday night, for maintenance and power upgrades.
This will lead into a three-year closure of parts of Flinders Street to make way for Metro Tunnel works.
Yarra Trams drivers and customer service staff will strike for four hours, bringing the network to a halt between 10am and 2pm.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) is fighting for a 6 per cent annual pay rise and an end to Yarra Trams’ plans to scrap a 4 per cent cap on part-time jobs.
RTBU state secretary Luba Grigorovitch said the union had done its best to minimise the strike’s impact on commuters.
“We hope commuters understand that our members are fighting for their futures,” Ms Grigorovitch said.
“RTBU members deserve a fair and just EBA. We can’t rule out further protected industrial action if Yarra Trams continues down this path.”
While Yarra Trams has said the four-hour stoppage should not affect the peak-hour commute, Public Transport Victoria (PTV) has warned passengers to prepare for disruptions as early as 9am and as late as 3pm because trams will have to return to depots during the strike.
Melburnians should avoid non-essential travel
The Transport Department’s head of transport services, Jeroen Weimar, apologised in advance to passengers.
“It’s disappointing that this dispute will inconvenience the thousands of Victorians who rely on Melbourne’s trams to get where they need to go each day,” Mr Weimar said.
“We encourage all parties to continue negotiating to reach a satisfactory agreement in the interest of passengers.”
Buses will replace trams, but PTV has warned they will run every 20 to 30 minutes and will not service the entire network.
Significant delays are expected on replacement buses and there will be bigger crowds on trains.
Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allen said there was always a possibility of pulling back from industrial action.
“It’s disappointing that this action is being taken on Friday and that’s why we’ve been encouraging both parties to stay at the negotiating table,” Ms Allen said.
“We don’t want to see passengers disrupted, we don’t want to see journeys around the city unnecessarily disrupted and we’d encourage both parties to get back to the negotiating table to sort these matters out.”
Weekend train outages
Friday’s tram strike comes ahead of a weekend of major disruptions across the train network from 8.20pm on Friday until the last train on Sunday.
The City Loop will be closed to all trains for work on the Metro Tunnel project.
Buses will replace trains between Parliament and Caulfield stations on the Cranbourne, Pakenham and Frankston lines, and between Parliament and Elsternwick on the Sandringham line.
On the Werribee and Williamstown lines, bus replacements will run between Flagstaff, Newport and Williamstown.
Trains will be replaced by buses from Flagstaff to Sunshine on the Sunbury line, to Essendon on the Craigieburn line and to the end of the Upfield line.
The transport chaos will not stop on Sunday night – from Monday, parts of Flinders Street will be closed to cars for up to three years.
The closure of eastbound lanes, between Elizabeth and Swanston streets, will pave the way for underground work connecting Flinders Street Station and the new Town Hall Station.
Ms Allen said the series of works had been widely advertised so passengers could plan ahead.
“It’s the biggest public transport infrastructure project ever delivered here in the state, as we get on and deliver this project,” Ms Allen said.
“It’s a big project from time to time, and it’s going to cause disruption around the city and we work very hard to manage that disruption very carefully.”