Matthew Longland, the CEO of Sydney Trains, has said sorry to commuters for the lack of warning there would be zero network services on Monday due to a dispute concerning pay and conditions between the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) and the NSW government.
On the same day Australia began celebrating the milestone of opening its international borders to new arrivals, Sydney’s transport network came to a halt. With no firm sense of when the standoff between the RTBU and state government will resolve, Longland told a press conference on Monday that he decided to cancel services and the decision to do so ‘ultimately rests with me’.
“I made that decision and I stand by that decision,” Longland said.
“We know the impacts that this has caused… but safety must come first and if we can’t operate a reliable system that gets people home again then it makes things very, very difficult.”
The Sydney Trains boss advised commuters to keep an eye on network updates before they planned to catch public transport but warned delays and cancelled services may still be an issue for Tuesday.
“We are absolutely focused on resolving this,” Longland said.
At the weekend an agreement in the Fair Work Commission was reached between the union and the state government that limited industrial action would occur first thing Monday morning but at the 11th hour the government attempted to recommence negotiations.
As no headway was made, the government decided to shut down the network, sparking confusion over whether train drivers had ‘walked off the job’ as part of an organised strike. The union is adamant this is not the case.
“At best, Trains Management are incompetent. At worst they are intentionally causing chaos in a high-stakes tactic to destabilise negotiations and manipulate the public and courts against the rail workers,” a tweet from NSW unions read.
What has transpired in the last 24 hours is truly breathtaking.
The NSW Liberal Government deliberately engineered a transport crisis in Australia's largest city.
They did it this to manipulate the public and media against workers who they are in negotiations with.
— Unions NSW (@unionsnsw) February 21, 2022
According to Unions NSW, the state government moved to cancel all network services at 1am on Monday.
The war of words continued, with NSW transport minister David Elliott accusing the unions of ‘industrial bastardry’ and blaming train drivers and the movement for upsetting the people of NSW with ‘silly games’ that put services at risk. He said the decision to close the network was an operational one.
“This is not anything but a part of the Labor Party’s campaign to bully the electorate into supporting their election. I don’t think the people of New South Wales are going to buy it,” Elliott said.
Due to industrial action, trains are not running on the T5 Cumberland Line. Please utilise T1 & T2 services to complete your journey.
A limited amount of buses have also been arranged
Please limit travel where possible and use alternative modes of transport. pic.twitter.com/OskPtYhiTY
— T5 Sydney Trains (@T5SydneyTrains) February 21, 2022