Commuters were packed in tight after rain and staff sickness cause extensive delays across the rail network. (Twitter: @emmabeth08)
The evening commute is shaping to be a stressful and uncomfortable one for thousands of Sydneysiders, with delays and cancellations continuing from this morning.
Sydney Trains said trains were disrupted today due to 100 staff taking leave, as well as wet weather, with over 50 services cancelled in the morning peak, and 45 cancelled tonight.
For some it was be a day of double delays, with frustrated passengers trying to get home complaining of overcrowded platforms, trains too full to take on more passengers and services being cancelled at the last minute.
“Sydney Trains need to work something out, whatever they’re attempting at Town Hall for platform 1 and 2 is beyond a joke and is making the crowding so much worse than normal,” commuter Jessica Spookles said.
“Still confused why we are being made to pay for barely any service?”
Commuter Ben Wallace also said Town Hall was not coping with the crowds and he could not get out of the station.
“It was absolutely crazy. I almost saw two fights break out,” he said.
“Town Hall is closing the entrance to platforms until people come up so the entire ground floor is a disaster,” he said.
The T1 North Shore, T2 Inner West and Leppington, T3 Bankstown, T5 Cumberland and T8 Airport South Line are all currently impacted.
A Sydney Trains spokesperson says buses are replacing some services, particularly in the western suburbs.
“We’re providing a regular service … not to the timetable … but we are closing the gaps between cancellations,” the spokesman said.
“Buses are waiting to take people.”
Extra customer service staff are in place at major stations such as Central and Town Hall to manage crowds.
Sydney Trains is working to resume scheduled services for Tuesday morning.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance has defended rail staff who do a “phenomenal” job in the face of significant population growth.
Mr Constance said counselling to help staff deal with a high number of tragedies on the rail network in the past fortnight contributed to rail problem.
Sydney Trains planned for 76 drivers to be sick, but about 40 additional staff were also off.
“The men and women driving our trains and crewing our trains are doing a phenomenal job,” Mr Constance said.
Five years ago, the network supported 300 million passenger trips, but that has now increased by 100 million
Mr Constance said the trains still ran to over 90 per cent regularly, despite the “enormous challenges” in staff flexibility.
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“In the last two weeks, for instance, we’ve had some terrible tragedies on our railway,” he said.
“That has taken staff availability and affected staff availability. We have got staff being counselled.”
“Those who seek to denigrate the railways are on the wrong track.”
Over the past fortnight, there have been six deaths on the rail network, including accidental and self-harm incidents.
The department usually responds to one or two incidents each month.
Each incident involves mandated and optional leave for staff as they receive counselling.
Opposition promises fare refunds
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley used the delays to launch a Labor policy that would see commuters who are delayed 30 minutes refunded their full fare.
He said if the party wins next year’s state election, commuters would have a 28-day window to claim the refund for any delays caused by “avoidable” problems on the rail network.
“At the moment, there’s just no incentive on the people running the railways to do better,” Mr Foley said.
“The objective here is not so much to refund people, but ensure there’s not need for refunds.”
Mr Foley said the refunds would not be issued for natural disasters such as flash flooding or fires, but the policy would apply to staff illness and mechanical failures.
The Opposition estimates it would cost between $5 million and $6 million over the forward estimates period.
Mr Foley accused the State Government of failing to recruit enough train drivers to cover shortages.
Rail Tram and Bus Union NSW Secretary Alex Claassens agreed the Government had not done enough to train staff in the short term.
“We are totally stretched to the limit. We are exhausted. We’re cutting corners everywhere,” he said.
Mr Claassens defended staff, saying blaming them for delays was a “cop out”.