That moment when you’re talking about train disruptions, and one sneaks up behind you…
…but I think I bumbled my way through it okay.
So here we are. The first major industrial action on the train network since 1997, following a similar tram stoppage last week.
Trains begin shutting down from 8:17am — that’s the time some stations have last services, though many stations will still have service up to about an hour later. By 10am all trains will have stopped, and they won’t be back until after 2pm, but some stations may not have trains until after 3. Lots of detail on the Metro web site — but above this, there seem to be additional cancellations expected well into the afternoon and evening.
Apparently during the stoppage there are replacement buses running, but 320 buses organised in a rush can’t possibly cover adequately for an entire train network, especially when the road network is likely to be more congested (even though it appears to be a building industry RDO today). Note the buses don’t actually go into the CBD, but terminate on the outskirts. Presumably they don’t want them all caught in traffic snarls.
Neither Metro nor union are backing down. Metro clearly want to push their “five group railway” policy, which includes limiting driver training to specific lines. The union wants to protect that and other working conditions. And the public (and the community at large) are the meat in the sandwich.
The union argues that limiting qualifications is bad, and a possible safety risk. I can understand in principle that repetitive work could lead to complacency and safety issues, but I can’t reconcile that with the fact that numerous other rail systems across the world have drivers dedicated to specific lines — on radio yesterday Jon Faine said that London Underground drivers are trained in 22 weeks, for example, compared to 68 here.
There are other issues involved however, and it’s worth noting that multiple drivers have told me they didn’t want strike action – that was pushed by other parts of the union.
What happens next is anybody’s guess. Hopefully they can reach an agreement soon that sees fair conditions for workers, but also a more efficient reliable rail network — without more disruptions to services.