‘Disgusted’: Fury at price gouging, as rail commuters face more disruption


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Sydney commuters have been warned to brace for more disruption after the rail network came to a standstill during peak hour on Wednesday afternoon.

The official Twitter accounts for Sydney’s trains were on Thursday morning giving travellers plenty of notice to be prepared.

“Allow plenty of extra travel time due to a train communication issue earlier,” the official tweets said.

“Trains are running to a reduced frequency & changed timetable. Stops and platforms may change.”

It followed an afternoon of chaos when a radio system failure brought every Sydney train to a standstill, leaving thousands of people stranded.

All trains were stopped at platforms for about an hour until services began running again about 4pm.

Crowded station platforms were crammed with frustrated commuters with nowhere to go, while others tried to squeeze onto buses.

Adding to the mayhem were reports of rideshare services like Uber charging exorbitant rates. In one example of price gouging, a trip that was normally about $39 surged to $500.

NSW Transport Minister David Elliott slammed Uber for trying to profit from an unfortunate situation.

“I’m absolutely disgusted that Uber have decided to take advantage of an unfortunate situation in Sydney,” he said.

“I have had consistent reassurances from Uber this wouldn’t occur.”

Sydney Trains operates about 3000 services a day.

Sydney Trains chief executive Matt Longland said there would be a full investigation into the “root cause of the incident” to ensure it “doesn’t happen again”.

“We apologise to customers for the interruption to services this afternoon.”

The issue stemmed from an “extremely rare” failure in the digital train radio system about 2.45pm.

“For safety reasons that meant that we had to bring trains back to platforms so customers could safely get off those trains,” Mr Longland said.

Engineers were unable to reset communication services after they failed and instead switched to a backup system, which took about an hour.

“This system is a critical communication system between our rail operations centre and our train crew,” Mr Longland said.

“And while the rail network was fully operational, we aren’t able to operate trains safely while the train crew can’t communicate with the rail operations centre.”

The early indication was that it was system-related and not any kind of cybersecurity issue.

At the Town Hall Station, staff had closed off the area behind the turnstiles and asked commuters to head to the ground level, but many lingered.

Greg Jacques said the delay made a terrible day worse as he was heading to St George Hospital in Kogarah to see his dying uncle.

“I’m stressed out, man. I’ve got to go say goodbye to my uncle because he’s passing away,” he said.

Joanna Dunbar-Poole, 79, said she was headed home to Cabrammata when the shutdown hit and getting a bus home wasn’t an option for her.

“I’m going to Central and will sit around there and if it goes on all night I’m going to stay in a youth hostel or something,” she said.

Transport for NSW said it requested additional buses and worked with transport operators and light rail to run extra services to help with the recovery of services.

Labor’s transport spokeswoman said tens of thousands of people, including school children, had been stranded again.

“Passengers have faced chaos, cancellations and delays for more than a year now,” Jo Haylen said.

“Passengers will be asking tonight where were the backup systems and where are the backup buses so they can get home.”

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