Train services to be slashed by up to 75 per cent during week of industrial action

Train commuters across NSW have been warned to expect “significant delays” this week due to protected industrial action,which will see peak hour services reduced by 50 per cent on Tuesday and up to 75 per cent later in the week.

Rail workers have launched the action in response to workplace and safety concerns,including a new intercity train fleet which they say is “not safe for commuters or workers”.

Commuters have been warned to expect delays from protected industrial action.

Commuters have been warned to expect delays from protected industrial action.Louise Kennerley

The action will begin on Tuesday,with trains travelling no faster than 60 kilometres an hour for the entire day. On Wednesday,there will be an indefinite ban on union members returning to the Rail Operations Centre.

On Thursday,drivers will refuse to travel in trains as passengers,meaning they will only be able to work from their home depot,as well as a ban on work associated with the Sydney Metro. On Friday,drivers will refuse to operate foreign-made trains,which are used for about 75 per cent of services.

There is also an ongoing ban on cleaners cleaning up hazardous waste.

In a statement on Sunday,Transport for NSW said commuters should expect significant disruptions,with the protected action expected to cause “delays and the increasing cancellation of services across the week”.

One of the intercity trains at the centre of the stand-off between rail unions and the NSW government.

One of the intercity trains at the centre of the stand-off between rail unions and the NSW government.Tom Rabe

“Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink[are] working to assess the full impacts and provide alternative travel arrangements for customers where possible,” a spokesperson said.

Disruptions on Monday are expected to be minor,however Tuesday’s “go slow” will mean only 50 per cent of regular peak services will operate. Significant delays are also expected for long-distance and regional services,with customers advised to travel only in essential circumstances.

The action on Thursday could see train services reduced by as much as 70 per cent during peak periods,with the action on Friday expected to reduce services by as much as 75 per cent.

Replacement buses will operate in some areas in a limited capacity,with passengers on regional train services expected to be contacted to advise them of delays.

Howard Collins,chief operations officer of Transport for NSW,said passengers should ensure they have a back-up plan for essential travel.

Alex Claassens,NSW Secretary of the Rail,Tram and Bus Union,said workers never want to take industrial action,but the NSW government “seem intent on forcing us into that position”.

“All we want is for the government to deliver on the basic safety and workforce issues that we’ve been talking about for many months,” Claassens said. “This has always been about safety for us.”

In a statement,transport and veterans minister David Elliott and finance and employee relations minister Damien Tudehope said a new enterprise agreement had been offered to rail workers on Friday,following an intensive bargaining period.

“The offer includes enhanced conditions and allowances,additional leave benefits,and higher wages for additional duties and associated productivity benefits in the NSW TrainLink fleet,” the ministers said.

“It is predicated upon bringing the Mariyung Fleet into service in the fastest possible time so that passengers can benefit from the enhanced customer experience,accessibility and safety features of these state-of-the-art trains.”

The union has previously raised concerns about the fleet including blind spots in CCTV cameras,potentially leading to guards being unable to see someone falling into the gap between the train and the platform.

Elliott and Tudehope said the government had requested that the industrial action be withdrawn,with the government looking forward to “an amicable resolution of these negotiations”.

Georgina Mitchell is a court reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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