With a ban on overtime for Sydney Trains staff beginning from January 25, the flailing network will be under a lot pressure to provide services to the Sydney metropolitan area this Australia Day long weekend. An announcement late yesterday afternoon confirms that, from Thursday, train services will see major disruptions and run to a reduced timetable.
Rail services will be severely limited from January 25 onward while bus, ferry and light rail will continue service as normal.
The reason for the disruption is planned industrial action by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) as they continue their negotiations for better working conditions with Sydney Trains bosses and the Government. The Union had struck a deal with Sydney Trains bosses as of late January 23, which would see staff receive a 2.75 per cent pay rise, a one-off $1000 payment to each employee and free travel using Opal cards. The Union took the offer to its members overnight and it is to be voted on by midday, January 24, potentially cancelling any of the planned industrial action.
However, one driver told Lifehacker that the result for this offer "will be a resounding no" and what has been put to them is "a slap in the face".
Even if the offer is accepted and the overtime ban called off, the network is likely to see severe challenges on Thursday.
"It will be a complete nightmare for commuters. Every train I see in the morning peak is absolutely packed, but half that capacity and it will just be impossible. Maybe worse than last Tuesday," explains the driver. Up to 1300 services will be cancelled tomorrow, essentially running a weekend timetable on a busy week day. It is expected that the peak periods will see disruptions.
On Australia Day itself, both T5 and T6 lines will be cancelled, with shuttle buses replacing trains. After 4pm, some additional services will be available from Sydney Olympic Park. Regional trains will run to the usual Friday schedule.
On January 28, no regional train services will run.
Transportnsw.info suggests that "roads are expected to be busier than normal and congestion will occur throughout the day, so you should avoid driving or allow plenty of extra travel time."
It also recommends employers speak to staff about alternative working arrangements, suggesting working from home, taking annual leave or changing start and finish times.
We'll keep you updated as more information comes to hand.