Commuters wait for more than 30 minutes for a Western Line train to move out from platform 18 at Central. Photo: Michael Rosser, smh.com.au reader
Tens of thousands of Sydney residents have endured a long and disjointed journey home in the wet on Friday, after signal failures struck down most of the city’s train system.
I’m really fed up with Sydney public transport. You can never trust it.
Passengers reported being stuck on trains for hours after a direct lightning strike on the signal control centre at Lidcombe knocked out trains across the network about 5.45pm. The only line not affected was the Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra Line.
Commuters wait outside Strathfield station on Friday night. Photo: Matt, smh.com.au reader
"Five hours to get home to Katoomba. That is all," one commuter, Siobhan, said in an email to the Herald.
One Twitter user, @Crap_Commuters, said: "People are resorting to urinating on the train! Sydney trains offers no respect for us!"
At 8.50pm a spokesman for Sydney Trains said services were moving across the city again. The spokesman said lightning strikes had taken out both the main and back-up signalling systems, and electricians had reported extensive damage and burnt equipment.
‘‘We understand customers endured extended delays while trying to get home,’’ Sydney Trains director of operations Tony Eid said.
‘‘I have not seen the main signal system and the back-up system taken out by an external strike like this in many many years. ‘We wanted to move stopped trains to platforms to start disembarking customers as soon as possible, however it was not safe to do so.
‘‘Sydney Trains apologises for tonight’s delays and appreciates the understanding of customers who endured such a lengthy wait.’’
The incident marked the latest in a run of major train delays in Sydney. On Monday, for instance, just one in four peak hour trains ran on time.
And on Thursday night, trains were delayed for more than an hour on the North Shore Line and Western Line because of a fatality at Waverton.
Replacement buses were ordered to the north shore. But because of the way Sydney’s train system operates – lines interact with other lines many kilometres apart – passengers through western Sydney were also delayed.
At Town Hall, Benoit Phal, a hotel receptionist, waited for 20 minutes for a train to Artarmon before deciding to take a taxi.
‘‘To be honest I’m really fed up with Sydney public transport. You can never trust it. We pay so much money for it too.’’
IT consultant Fahad Mumtaz could not take his regular train to Holsworthy because of major delays on the Airport Line. ‘‘I’ll have to circumvent it by going to Wolli Creek where I’ll have to wait 15 minutes for another train. It’s seriously frustrating. I’m late every day. I go to Japan and trains run with military precision there. Blizzards don’t make a difference there, so why would a lightening strike?’’
Through the city, would-be train passengers vented their frustration on social media. ‘‘Train stuck at Strathfield for 90 mins,’’ wrote @MatthewBevan. ‘‘Just told for 4th time that it’ll be ‘‘10 to 15 mins’’. Carriage erupts into laughter.’’ Others lamented a lack of information. ‘‘Hey #SydneyTrains we get you have a failure but your customers deserve some updates and also a free travel day seriously no updates,’’ wrote @aimee_maree.
One reader contacted the Herald to say the trains were not gradually coming on line, as Sydney Trains reported earlier in the evening. ‘‘As of 8pm no trains have moved at all,’’ Matt wrote, attaching a photo taken at 8pm of ‘‘stranded passengers waiting at Strathfield for lifts, non-existent taxis and non-existent buses’’, adding ‘‘you’ve had nearly 3 years at this Gladys [Berejiklian] and it’s only getting worse.’’
Another reader said she had been forced to pay $70 for a taxi to get her two-year-old daughter home.‘‘[We] were on the train home tonight when it was stopped at Lidcombe Station. We were told that services had been suspended indefinitely and that we best ’make our own way’.
‘‘The only option available was a taxi - despite knowing that [I] would be unlikely to find one with a child’s seat.
‘‘In pouring rain my daughter and I struggled out to the nearest taxi stand to find a queue of about 20 people ahead of us - and not a taxi in sight. After waiting for about 40 mins without success my partner eventually caught a taxi in Fairfield and made a $70 round trip to pick us up and get a very tired and wet baby home to bed.
"Good on you City Rail - I paid $10 this morning for a ticket and it took me three hours and $70 in a taxi (without a safe child seat) to get home.’’
Late on Friday night, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said: ‘‘I apologise to everyone affected by this incident and thank our customers for their patience while Sydney Trains staff worked to get trains moving again.
‘‘I understand electricians on the scene reported burnt equipment and significant damage, which made returning services extremely challenging.’’
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