Commuter chaos in Sydney after wind damages lines on Harbour Bridge

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney's transport systems fell into chaos on Friday after gale force winds caused damage to an overhead train line on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Services on the North Shore Line were cancelled, leaving commuters stranded in the city.

Just after 2:30 p.m. AEST (UTC+10), a maintenance hatch blew from a train travelling North on the Harbour Bridge hitting overhead lines and landing in northbound traffic lanes. The hatch caused damage to around 300 metres of overhead line, causing Cityrail to cancel services between Wynyard and North Sydney stations.

The 30 passengers aboard the train were evacuated and placed onto buses shortly after 3:00 p.m. AEST. The Daily Telegraph reported that passengers feared electrocution, as it was uncertain whether or not the fallen lines had come into contact with the bridge. There were also fears for bridge climbers who were on top of the bridge.

The incident causes transport chaos, with bus services replacing trains, traffic congestion on the bridge and the refusal of taxis to carry passengers into the city.

Commuters reported queues of up to one kilometre long in North Sydney waiting for buses and around 200 people waiting for buses at Wynyard. It is believed that passengers at Wynyard had to wait some 45 minutes before buses arrived.

Commuters criticised the government over the way the incident was handled. Commuters said they felt as if nobody knew what was going on and Cityrail transit officers did not seem to be in control. The government responded with Transport Minister John Watkins saying that the government did the best it could under the circumstances.

Mr Watkins said that the government had arranged "an extra 50 buses to run a shuttle service between North Sydney station and Wynard,"

"But when you have a major problem like this, a major breakdown in our rail system, it is going to put pressure on our road system and on other public transport."

Train services were resumed at around 9:00 p.m. AEST between Wynyard and North Sydney, with Cityrail warning that delays should be expected.