Thousands of NSW commuters have been left stranded with trains on the Sydney network and NSW TrainLink intercity rail passenger services cancelled because of an industrial dispute.
Sydney Trains CEO Matt Longland said commuters were in for “a very difficult” Monday with services suspended across Greater Sydney as well as the intercity network, affecting routes from Newcastle, the Blue Mountains and Kiama on the South Coast.
“We’re urging customers to obviously avoid travel today or to use the transport journey planner to look for alternative options, such as buses, ferries and light rail if possible,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.
Transport for NSW Secretary Rob Sharp said additional buses would be available but the industrial action would leave tens of thousands of people stranded.
The matter was before the Fair Work Commission on the weekend. Mr Sharp said the decision was taken to cancel trains about midnight on Sunday, after action by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union made it impossible to safely operate services.
Commuters are being urged to avoid trains wherever possible, use alternative modes of transport, and allow extra time for trips.
“We are doing everything possible to minimise the impact to commuters and sincerely apologise to everyone inconvenienced by this industrial action,” he said.
The issue will return to the Fair Work Commission on Monday.
The action is the latest chapter in a long-running dispute between the government and the union over safety guarantees, hygiene and privatisation concerns.
But the union said workers were not on strike and were involved in two weeks of protected industrial action that would not affect commuters.
It accused the government of attempting “to silence workers by blocking their legal industrial action”.
RTBU NSW Secretary, Alex Claassens said workers would take part in a ban on “altered working”, meaning that they performed the shifts they were set without any changes.
“If commuters see any impact to their services, it won’t be because of workers’ actions, but because the NSW government is spitting the dummy and trying to make a point,” he said in a statement.
“All members will be at work, ready to work.”
“There’s no strike – workers are simply performing the shifts we’re set without any changes.”