Chaos is putting pressure on the Perrottet government as the election draws near

The failure of the digital trains’ radio system halted all services at 2.45pm, leaving Sydney’s major stations flooded with commuters. Some were turned away from City Hall station in what staff said was an unprecedented incident.


The rail shutdown impacted Sydney’s transport system as a whole, increasing pressure on buses and light rail and causing severe congestion on motorways and roads as commuters sought alternative modes of transport.

At Railway Square near Central, hundreds of commuters waited up to an hour for a bus, but most didn’t stop because they were already full. People stood on the street, Broadway, shouted at bus drivers in vain.

For 17-year-old university student Manas Chigurukota, who moved from Auckland two weeks ago, it was his first taste of Sydney’s traffic chaos. “It’s pretty overwhelming, horrifying. I’ve never seen it before,” he said.

At around 4:45 p.m., word that trains were starting again spread through the crowd, which gradually dispersed as people headed back to Central to try their luck.

A lengthy industrial dispute between the railway unions and the state government last year led to a 24-hour shutdown of the network by the railway operators in February 2022 and to sporadic service interruptions for months.

Commuters have been warned to avoid the train network altogether for the remainder of Wednesday’s evening peak. While trains resumed at 4 p.m., the gap between services on some rail routes was more than half an hour. Typically, trains run every three to five minutes during the morning and evening rush hours.

Sydney Trains’ digital train radio system, which connects the trains to a rail operations center in Green Square, went down around 2.45pm. The technicians couldn’t reset the system, so they switched it to a backup site around 3:30 p.m.

Sydney Trains Chief Executive Matt Longland said the “root cause” of the network-wide outage of the train’s five-year-old digital radio system was being fully investigated.

“Whether it’s an IT-related issue or a system issue, we will investigate the issue fully to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Longland confirmed a system update took place last weekend, but early indications were that it had nothing to do with the failure of the train’s critical digital radio system.

“We believe that the system upgrade issues did not cause this particular incident. Our first clue is that it’s not related to cyber issues – we believe it’s a systemic issue,” he said.

“This system is an important communication system between our railway operations center and our train crew. And while the rail network was fully operational, we cannot safely operate the trains until train crews can communicate with the rail operations center.”

Longland said passengers weren’t trapped in train cars for long after briefly stopping between stations.


“This came at peak PM time so you would expect significant impact and delays for customers who would normally be making their journey home around this time of day,” he said.

Longland said while some services would be rolled out to the network after 4 p.m., the network would suffer severe delays for the rest of the day.

The malfunction also halted intercity trains between Sydney and Newcastle, Wollongong and the Blue Mountains.

With Michael Koziol

The Morning Edition Newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Login here. Chaos is putting pressure on the Perrottet government as the election draws near

Justin Scacco

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