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Stranded passengers struggle to distance

Stranded commuters wait for train replacement buses at Strathfield station. Photo: twitter/@SydneysiderAU

By ALLISON HORE

Following train line shutdowns and service cancellations across Sydney on Thursday, commuters crowded onto train platforms with little regard for social distancing. 

A fatality at Lidcombe station in the early afternoon led to buses replacing trains in both directions between Strathfield and Parramatta, and a number of train services between Strathfield and Central being cancelled. 

Although the incident occurred in the early afternoon, delays continued well into peak hour and late into the evening. Sydney trains urged commuters, including cricket fans on their way home from the SCG Test, to delay non-essential travel or to make other arrangements if possible. 

Some lines across the network were closed for almost 4 hours as a result of the incident which is believed to have impacted overhead wiring. When trains began running again at around 6pm, the backlog of commuters led to crowding at a number of stations.

Throughout the afternoon videos and photos emerged on social media showing crowding at train stations and a lack of social distancing. One alarming picture showed crowds almost ten people deep of commuters waiting for train replacement buses at Strathfield station, with no social distancing. 

Sydney local Michelle Michael posted another video to Twitter showing crowding on the platforms at Ashfield station in Sydney’s Inner West. She commended station staff on their efforts in controlling the crowds and making sure commuters maintained distance. 

“Rail staff are actually doing a sensible job at stopping people from going down onto the platforms,” she said.

“This is not good for social distancing but absolutely everyone is wearing a mask.”

Another commuter called the delays and train cancellations following the fatality “understandable” but said the lack of physical distancing at stations and bus stops “is beyond a joke”.

Commuters masked up

Although the delays led to a worrying lack of social distancing, posters noted excellent compliance with the mask mandate through the ordeal.

Throughout December last year, only around a third of Sydney commuters were wearing masks, according to passenger monitoring data released by Transport for NSW. On New Years Eve, Transport for NSW officials counted only around 33 percent of customers on buses and about 28 percent of customers on trains wearing masks. 

But since the COVID-19 public health orders requiring all commuters wear masks came into effect, mask use on public transport has skyrocketed. Under the new rules people not wearing masks are not allowed to board their train, bus or light rail service. Failing to put on a mask after being warned by police will result in a $200 fine. 

Since the mask mandate came into effect police have issued fines to almost 20 people for failure to comply. On Wednesday, police warned more than 50 people for not wearing masks.

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