Premier rules out compensation after NYE train delays
SYDNEY'S 165-year-old rail network was still recovering late Tuesday night after what authorities described as "freak weather" left New Year's Eve revellers stranded.
Sydney Trains CEO Howard Collins said services were "just getting back to normal" about 1pm on Tuesday - although commuters were still reporting delays and cancellations, and much confusion, as late as 7pm.
Up to 1000 lightning strikes had hit the network at seven sites during Monday night's storms, destroying vital pieces of rail infrastructure in places such as Central, Flemington, Gordon and Casula - causing service cancellations and delays of up to 3½ hours on the busiest night of the year.
Many travellers labelled the situation "a disgrace" but for some it was deja vu after a similar incident last January when lightning strikes caused extensive delays across the Sydney network.
After the New Year's Eve pandemonium, passengers were still being warned to expect delays on five lines as staff worked to repair signal boxes that had been directly hit by lightning.
Even Sydney Trains staff were caught in the confusion, with reports of one train driver turning up only to be told by platform staff that the service had been cancelled.
Mr Collins said services were expected to be running regularly today.
He said at the height of the storms - as several cells rolled across Sydney - a "vital crossing" was lost for 40 minutes at Central Station, where "staff, in the storm, tried to chase the cable".
After the midnight fireworks, crowds packed into Central, Town Hall and Wynyard stations waiting for trains that were either late or did not arrive. Police were called in to help contain the overflow.
Despite the state government urging revellers to use public transport, they will not be compensated for the chaotic end to their night.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday said she could understand "how frustrated commuters were getting home" but ruled out giving them their money back.
She said "freak weather" coupled with bumper crowds put enormous pressure on the network. "There will be occasions always in the future when freak incidents bring down a rail line but it shouldn't bring down an entire network and that's what we're building towards," she said.
Ms Berejiklian said the government's $20 billion Sydney Metro rail project, which allows the separation of rail lines, would help "untangle" the rail network.
"What happens now is when a lightning strike brings down a rail line, unfortunately it impacts more than just one line so having one rail line down affects a huge chunk of the network," she said.
Mr Collins also said the Sydney Metro would give his agency "another arrow in our armoury to get trains through the centre of town underground". "Overhead powerlines are always vulnerable to lightning and we saw some mega storms last night," he said. Mr Collins apologised to commuters but said Sydney Trains staff had "tried to do the best we can".
One frustrated commuter said that the situation was a "complete train meltdown".
Another wrote on social media that a guard at Lindfield train station told waiting travellers to stretch their legs, despite pouring rain. And a train driver heading into the city about 5am advised the journey would take longer than usual because the network was "in shambles".
Opposition Leader Michael Daley said it was an "international embarrassment".
"The people of Sydney who came to watch the fireworks have a simple question: What the hell went wrong? Why can't Sydney just get it right on the biggest night of the year?" he said.
"Eighteen hours in now and there are still services cancelled, the system still hasn't recovered. How can the rail system in Sydney receive a knock and just go into meltdown and not recover?"
Acting NSW Police deputy commissioner Mark Walton thanked passengers for their patience.