Factors combined for rail chaos
Trackwork, hot weather, driver shortages and a new train timetable with no room for flexibility combined to cause rail chaos and confusion for Woy Woy commuters on January 8 and 9, according to NSW Opposition Central Coast spokesman Mr David Harris.
Peninsula commuters were given advanced notice that buses would replace trains during off-peak periods between Berowra and Hornsby to accommodate track work.
This combined with a series of unexpected system problems, including the weather and staff absences, resulted in a meltdown that saw significant delays and cancellations, according to Mr Harris.
"I had people contacting me on social media who were due to catch their normal train home from work at 5:30pm who didn't get home until after 9pm," he said.
He said Opal data revealed that the majority of the Coast's commuters started and ended their daily journeys from Woy Woy station.
The Labor Opposition foreshadowed the impact the timetable would have on the train network when it obtained a Transport memo warning of massive delays in the wake of a major incident, Mr Harris said.
"We warned the government that this new timetable would be a disaster for Central Coast commuters and the Minister laughed it off," he said.
"Our commuters have some of the longest travel times on the network and it is unacceptable that their service has declined and their needs are being ignored.
"It took some people more than twice the travel time to get home and they should be refunded to acknowledge the inconvenience caused by the government's lack of foresight and proper resourcing of the network."
According to Mr Harris, the suspension of services between Berowra and Hornsby meant that "when they got into strife they couldn't use any trains coming from the Coast or Newcastle because they were all terminating at Berowra.
"They have also sectionalised the network and drivers are now only qualified to drive on certain lines so drivers couldn't be used to add capacity to the system and vacant positions have not been filled."
Mr Harris said it was fortunate the problems occurred before the commencement of the school year but the problems could happen again.
"If it had happened when school went back it would have been a huge disaster.
"The leaked memo told the government its new timetable would put the system at saturation and if there was an incident it would tip the whole system over because there was no spare capacity.
"We pursued this issue in the last week of parliament last year and the Minister laughed at us but all the drivers were saying there was no spare capacity.
"If they lose one or two services or lines then everything crashes and so there is no guarantee it won't happen again."
NSW Opposition Leader Mr Luke Foley demanded refunds for affected commuters and the suspension of the new timetable.
Mr Foley said the Premier and her Transport Minister must accept that a lack of resources, particularly drivers, was the root of the problem.
He said that the new timetable should be suspended until more drivers and trains could deliver it.
Media release, 10 Jan 2018
Luke Foley, NSW Opposition Leader
Interview, 10 Jan 2018
David Harris, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary
Website, 10 Jan 2018
Train patronage data, Transport for NSW
Reporter: Jackie Pearson