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There has been a huge blowout in the number of train delays, with 19 out of 20 commuters on the worst affected line getting home late in recent weeks, RailCorp figures reveal.
Passengers also have less protection, with dozens of patrols being lost over one weekend because of missed shifts by guards in the days after the Chubb company lost the CityRail security contract.
Commuters can expect the delays and cancellations to worsen, with rail officials forecasting that stringent medical standards introduced after the Waterfall inquiry will sideline enough drivers to affect the network for months.
There has been a big decline in the number of trains arriving on time, especially during the evening peak hour, in what are believed to be the worst RailCorp figures since the year before the Olympics - apart from natural disasters.
Only 60.7 per cent of trains were on time from January 19 to 23, and one section - the South line during the evenings - averaged just 4.3 per cent. Throughout the system only four out of five trains arrived within 11 minutes of the scheduled time.
The Greens transport spokeswoman, Lee Rhiannon, said the figures suggested "there was nothing short of chaos on our rail lines, yet all the . . . minister is doing is deflecting the blame onto workers. And the chaos is continuing".
Security gaps opened up in recent weeks, with up to 46 two-man train shifts a day abandoned over the Australia Day weekend after the Government announced that the Chubb contract would not be renewed from February 14.
Sources indicated that there had been a large number of resignations among the Chubb workforce in recent weeks.
The Transport Services Minister, Michael Costa, who criticised rail managers over the Waterfall derailment that killed seven people, has again lashed out at transport officials, this time over their handling of the case of a bus driver allegedly affected by alcohol.
In the incident, at 8am last Wednesday, the driver at Brookvale depot was suspected by a fellow employee of being under the influence of alcohol.
Mr Costa yesterday criticised State Transit management's actions in the case and ordered that an investigation be completed by the end of the week.
In a separate incident, another bus driver was stood down before work after allegedly turning up at the Kingsgrove depot smelling of alcohol.
Mr Costa has also ordered that regulations allowing random breath testing of bus and ferry employees to be speeded up and introduced by next month, with actual testing to begin by the end of March.
A RailCorp spokeswoman, Jane Lavender, defended the poor on-time running figures with a detailed list of causes for the slowdowns.
These included 61 trains delayed by a track failure on January 20, 47 slowed by a signal failure at Sydenham on the 21st and 170 hit by a combination of stormy weather and driver rostering problems on the 23rd.
On security, Ms Lavender said a recent review of the Chubb guards had found that they were not as effective as transit officers, whose numbers were being expanded to 500 throughout the network by July.
Over the Australia Day weekend there had been 150 transit officers on average on the network.
The Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator is conducting a review of on-time running figures after the NSW Auditor-General said last year that the figures were so unreliable as to be nearly worthless.
By Joseph Kerr, Transport Reporter
February 5, 2004
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/02/04/1075853939684.html
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