Why are the trains free?

Free Trains: An Explainer


8 November 2022

Why are the trains free?

Are trains in Sydney and NSW free? Why are trains free?

Rail workers will open and turn off Opal gates at train stations between Monday 21 and Friday 25 November 22. This means public transport on trains which use the Opal network will be free across NSW. This includes the metro, Sydney Airport stations and Opal-linked commuter car parks.

You don’t need to tap on or off during this period. Simply walk through the station on the train platform, catch your train and walk out of the station at your destination. Rules for metro may differ slightly. Ask station staff what to do if you’re unsure.

Why is this happening?

The Perrottet Government has capped the pay of essential workers below the cost of living. Poor conditions and safety problems are putting further pressure on public services.

Nurses, teachers, cleaners, paramedics, child protection workers, road workers, rail workers, and many more have been forced to stand up for their right to a decent living and safe workplace. Rail workers proposed turning off Opal gates, rather than striking, to make the NSW Government listen to these concerns. However, the NSW Government sued the workers in court to prevent them opening gates. Left without a choice, the rail workers proposed a week of strikes until the NSW Government finally agreed and let them turn off Opal gates.

What are the Government in a dispute with rail workers?

The NSW Government and workers at Sydney Trains and NSW Trains have been in workplace negotiations for 18 months.

The issue at stake is a 3-year agreement which sets out conditions, safety and pay for train workers. Originally, management at Sydney Trains proposed:

– Ending consultation with workers on safety changes and work practices;
– Reducing redundancy conditions to make it easier to eliminate jobs; and
– Less full-time secure jobs in favour of more short-term contract work.

This is why rail workers began industrial action last year with one-day bans, such as overtime bans. Industrial action by workers was very successful with most of these unfair proposals taken off the table.

However, management has refused to budge on their proposal to reduce safety and cap pay below the cost of living.

In early 2022, the Government even offered rail workers an $18,000 bonus paid in $3000 instalments every 6 months. The bonus would only be paid if rail workers operated the unsafe trains. Rail workers refused to trade off safety for pay bonuses.

What can be done to stop the dispute?

Ultimately the NSW Government will answer to the people of NSW at the next state election in March. It’s not just rail workers who are having problems with the NSW Government. It’s nurses, teachers, paramedics, cleaners and many more public sector workers.

If the NSW Government thinks the public is against their proposal to reduce safety and cap pay below the cost of living, they will go back to negotiations with the workers and offer a better agreement to stop the strikes.