Train travel in Sydney will be free from today until Friday

Opal card readers were turned off on Monday morning, and will remain inactive until Friday.
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Train travel on the Sydney rail network will be free all week, amid continual contract disputes between the Rail Union and State Government.

Opal card readers were turned off on Monday morning, and will remain inactive until Friday.

Here’s what you need to know.

Why is this happening?

The NSW Government said that fare-free train travel would stop any disruptions caused by planned industrial action from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) this week. This action was called off because the Government agreed to turn off Opal readers at train stations this week.

In a letter to its members on Friday, the RTBU called the move a “pivotal moment” in negotiations with the Government, and it showed the Union had the “upper hand”.

The NSW Government has estimated that free train travel this week will cost $7.5 million.

The industrial action

The RTBU and NSW Government have been negotiating a new deal on pay and conditions since June 2021.

During the negotiation process, union members have staged different levels of industrial action. This has included slowing down trains, refusing to operate foreign-made trains, and opening Opal gates.

What is the union asking for?

The union has called for a 3.5% pay rise, while the NSW Government has imposed a 3% cap on pay increases.

The RTBU is also asking the Government to address safety issues with some of the train fleet. This includes automatically locked guard doors, a CCTV blind spot, and CCTV screens blocking drivers’ line of sight.

The Government has publicly promised to fix safety issues, but the Union says it has refused to commit to this in court.

What about buses and ferries?

Only train travel will be free this week.

This means that commuters on buses, ferries, and light rail services will be charged as normal.

What’s next?

The Government and RTBU will continue negotiations tomorrow.

The RTBU says it will use the week of free train travel to “push the Government to deliver at the negotiating table”.

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