Rail services across NSW returned to a full schedule today, Monday 28 February. This comes just a week after the NSW Government spectacularly shut down the entire Sydney Trains network last monday, and also after months of COVID related timetable disruptions.
As of today, Sydney Trains will return to a full weekday timetable. This means that weekday Sydney Trains services will run every 3-4 minutes during peak times in the inner suburbs, with service frequencies of around 10 minutes for the rest of the metropolitan area. NSW TrainLink Intercity services, NSW TrainLink Regional XPT and Xplorer services are planned to run as timetabled.
Despite the move to increase services, industrial action by the Rail Tram and Bus Union continues this week. This brings to light the absurdity of the worker shutout conducted by the NSW Government last week. The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) had notified the government of its plans for industrial action on February 9. It was due to run for two weeks from Monday, February 21.
Come February 21, the decision was made by the NSW Government to shutdown the entire Sydney Trains network due to ‘safety concerns’ relating to the industrial action by the RTBU. Train drivers were shutout from their workplaces and the entire city ground to a halt. Initially, the government attempted to place the blame on drivers for a so called ‘snap strike’. It quickly became clear this characterisation was incorrect and that instead of a strike, it was the Government who had shut down the rail network.
Although the Premier and Transport Minister both maintain they were not aware of the impending collapse of the rail network, it is clear that senior bureaucrats were well aware of the shutdown ahead of time. As early as Wednesday February 16, some five days before the shutdown, bureaucrats across Transport and Treasury were aware of the plans. In fact, it was proposed that the shutdown last for the entire two week period of the RTBU’s actions.
That didn’t happen. Just a week later, instead of the network being closed, it is being ramped up. This raises serious questions as to the legitimacy of the safety concerns that led to the network being shutdown. Similarly, serious questions need to be asked why the Premier and Transport Minister were so unaware of major decisions being made on behalf of their government.
Instead of celebrating the return to a full timetable this week, alongside the return of International Travel last week, the Premier and Transport Minister need to look at where things went off the rails.