Commuters abandon cars during bus strike
by Andrew Jackson Expected traffic jams and chaos on the roads did not eventuate last week when Sydney commuters showed good sense and walked, bicycled, trained and ferried themselves to work during a two-day bus strike. They can expect further disruptions as drivers plan for another day of action on Thursday. The bus drivers' decision to continue the strike came when the Rail, Tram and Bus Union decided to reject a last-ditch offer made by the State Government just six hours before the strike began. Forgoing the 27 percent rise they were seeking, they decided at Friday's stop-work meeting that the 10 per cent offered by the State Government would be accepted as a six per cent rise effective immediately and the other four per cent from January 1 next year. The Government's offer was a rise of four per cent backdated to the beginning of this year, followed by another four per cent increase from January 1 2003, and a final two per cent rise next July. This was up from their original offer of three percent a year over three years. In a vote for the environment (and in fear of congested roads), Sydney- siders made their way to work walking and via other forms of public transport last Wednesday and Thursday. The 400,000 extra rail commuters carried per day during the strike was well above the 300,000 who usually take the bus. On top of this, ferries were filled to capacity and numbers Sydney's only light-rail line through the inner-western suburbs were up 65 per cent. In addition the Harbour Bridge walkway was packed with cross-harbour walkers. These numbers should be taken by the State Government as a show of willingness by Sydney workers to move from the roads onto public transport. Mr Carr's Government, and in particular Transport Minster Mr Scully have been under constant fire for dragging their feet on expanding the public transport system. New construction projects, such as the Outer-west bus-way and the Northwest train line have been re-announced during several budgets, without a sod of earth being turned. On the other hand, the Minister has raised the Harbour Bridge toll from $2 to $3, and given private toll-way operators permission to raise their tolls way beyond the rate of inflation.