Sydney commuters are having to deal with the pinch of reduced train services as the NSW government makes a last-ditch effort to stop a 24-hour strike on Monday.
With trains operating on a Saturday schedule, services on Thursday have been cut by nearly half, meaning every 15 minutes rather than every eight.
“Despite calling on hundreds of additional buses we are still unable to replace the full capacity of cancelled train services,” Transport Coordinator General Marg Prendergast said in a statement.
“Customers should consider whether they need to travel at all but if they do, should allow plenty of additional travel time, expect delays and travel outside the morning and afternoon peak periods,” she said.
By 7.30am on Thursday trains heading into the city were jam-packed, according to social media.
“T1 Line from Penrith-City. Cannot move,” wrote Nine Network.
The state government late on Wednesday launched legal proceedings in the Fair Work Commission to stop the 24-hour strike scheduled for Monday and an indefinite ban on overtime work.
The application was adjourned until Thursday morning, just as the first disruptions of the overtime ban begin to hit the system.
No trains will run across NSW on Monday and all stations will be closed if the 24-hour strike goes ahead.
The possibility follows a poll by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union – labelled “illegitimate” by Transport Minister Andrew Constance – which asked members via text message whether they wanted to accept the latest pay package from management.
More than 6100 text messages were sent to union members asking whether a 2.75 per cent pay increase as part of a package that also includes free bus travel and a one-off $1000 payment was good enough.
Workers were required to reply ‘yes’ to call off the strike, with a non-reply counted as a ‘no’ vote .
Only 5.93 per cent – about 360 workers – responded in favour of suspending industrial action.
Just “a couple of people” said ‘no’, according to RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens, prompting questions over the poll’s validity.
Mr Constance slammed the union’s SMS voting method and made an 11th-hour bid at the Fair Work Commission to prevent the strike.
The applications are due to be heard jointly at the commission at 8am on Thursday.