The Guardian March 13, 2002


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.

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