Strike pressures Sydney transport network0:32
Hundreds of Sydney bus drivers will hold a 24 hour strike over a government privatisation plan today.
Buses fill State Transit’s Tempe Bus Depot as up to 1200 bus drivers strike in Sydney. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins.
HUNDREDS of thousands of commuters across Sydney have faced a difficult trip to work — and will do again on the way home — as bus drivers go on strike in a dispute about privatisation.
Around 60 standard bus routes are affected on Thursday throughout the inner west of Sydney and the CBD as well as a score of school services. But many commuters seemed unaware of the action on Thursday morning with some bus stops having no signs to warn of the strike.
Train and light rail services are expected to be busier than usual as commuters seek alternative ways to get to work and school. Of all of Sydney’s inner west bus routes only the 438 and 461 along Parramatta Road will have some services running and then only in the morning and afternoon peaks.
The developer of travel app service NextThere has estimated 144,000 journeys could be affected.
On Wednesday, the Industrial Relations Commission ordered that the Rail, Tram and Bus Union and its members immediately stop any form of strike action but it’s unclear if that will have any effect on the stoppages.
The 24-hour stoppage began at midnight on Thursday and has impacted routes from four depots in the region: Leichhardt, Burwood, Kingsgrove and Tempe.
The strike has been called by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union over plans by the NSW Government to sell off the state-run bus operator in Sydney’s inner west.
Currently, four areas of Sydney — mostly around the CBD and the north shore — are run by State Transit while other regions have private operators. Whether buses are run by public or private operators, safety standards, fares, routes and frequencies are set by the Government through Transport for NSW.
On Monday, Transport Minister Andrew Constance said inner west services were being sold off because they had attracted the highest number of complaints out of Sydney’s metropolitan area operators in recent years, well above the results of bordering regions operated by private industry.
“There have been improvements in recent years, but State Transit still lags a long way behind its industry competitors in measures like on-time running and reliability,” he said.
“If the bus industry can provide quality in western Sydney, the inner west deserves the same, especially as Sydney grows.” he said.
But theunion has accused Mr Constance of backflipping on written assurances last year the routes wouldn’t be privatised.
“Members of the public should make alternative arrangements to travel to work and take their children to school,” RTBU spokesman Chris Preston said.
Mr Constance said inner west drivers would continue their employment under the new operator.
The plan would see the contract for Bus Region 6 — which runs 233 routes from Olympic Park in the city’s west to Kensington in the city’s southeast — put out to private tender to ensure a more reliable service.