The railway union warned on Friday that its dispute with the government over the state’s new fleet of intercity trains could lead to an all-out strike.
Transport for NSW said rail services would be heavily reduced on Friday on the T1 North Shore & Western, T2 Inner West & Leppington, T3 Bankstown, T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra, T8 Airport & South and T9 Northern lines.
The agency advised people against using the train to get to Airport Line stations because the limited number of services, as well as the start of school holidays, would make them much busier than usual.
Buses replace trains on the T3 Bankstown line between Lidcombe and Bankstown, the T7 Olympic Park line between Olympic Park and Lidcombe, and on the T8 Airport & South Line between Campbelltown and Macarthur.
Trains will not run on the T5 Cumberland line between Richmond and Leppington.
The major disruption to the rail network comes a day after rail unions failed to reach agreement with the government on its latest bid to modify the state’s multi-billion dollar intercity train fleet to address security issues.
Sydney Trains chief executive Matt Longland said commuters should plan their journeys and allow for extra time due to delays, cancellations and a significantly reduced train timetable on Friday.
“Customers choosing to travel on Sydney trains on Fridays should be prepared for much slower journeys and altered timetables,” he said.
As Elliott pleaded with the railway union to reverse its industrial action after the government finally agreed to make changes, RTBU Secretary of State Alex Claassens said the dispute would head to a strike unless the government agrees to sign an act guaranteeing changes to the intercity fleet. .
“We are getting to this point very quickly. [of strike action] because our patience is exhausted,” he said on Friday. “Our action will continue to escalate until someone in government wakes up to fix this mess.”
The railways union wants the government to sign a deed saying it will modify the new fleet before agreeing to settle their wider demands on wages and conditions. However, the government wants the two issues to be dealt with together.
Elliott said he would not sign a deed formally accepting the changes to the fleet without a broader agreement on the overall enterprise agreement.
The government has resisted for years making changes to the intercity fleet, which has been deemed safe by the National Rail Safety Regulator. However, union members have refused to staff the $2.88 billion fleet, fearing the guard could open his door and watch outside as the train approaches and leaves the stations.
The standoff has cost the government tens of millions of dollars as the trains sit in storage on the state’s central coast.
Elliott confirmed on Wednesday that the government would modify the trains at a cost of $260 million in a major concession, but insisted the deal would be contained within the broader corporate bargaining agreement.
To ease the pressure on Sydney’s roads, public transport lanes will open to all motorists on Friday.
A weekend frequency will operate on the Blue Mountains and Central Coast & Newcastle lines, while buses will replace trains between Wollongong and Kiama, and Wollongong and Port Kembla, on the South Coast line.
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