Auckland rail strike could affect 30,000

An Auckland Transport train passes by Mt Eden prison - Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

More than 30,000 Auckland commuters' travel plans could be derailed tomorrow, with trains to grind to a halt due to a planned 24-hour strike.

Rail staff are going on strike from 2am tomorrow until 2am Saturday in protest at plans to introduce driver-only passenger trains.

It has come after a long-running dispute between the union and train-operator Transdev.

Rail and Maritime Transport Union organiser John Kerr said that would cut around 200 jobs, but safety was his main concern.

"The idea that...the driver is able to drive that train and all the challenges that provides and be responsible for the safety and security of up to a thousand people is just ludicrous," he said.

"The parallel you can draw is would you get on a long-haul flight that had no flight attendants on board? Of course you wouldn't."

However, Mr Kerr was not ruling out calling off the strike if an agreement was reached.

Transdev's managing director Michel Ladrak said he had asked the union back to the table but had not had a response.

He was disappointed by what he called a premature strike.

"We're still working with the New Zealand Transport Agency through the safety case, making sure that what we are trying to implement will actually work," said Mr Ladrak.

"We've invited the union to work with us to see what we're...testing and trialling...and we're fully transperent about what's happening."

Mr Ladrak said it was a highly regulated and rigorous process and they were halfway through finishing it.

"They are already calling the strike [and] it's just not right in my opinion."

Transdev said driver-only trains have been successfully used in Melbourne, Hong Kong and London.

Auckland Transport is urging people to work from home if they can or make alternative arrangements such as cycling or carpooling.

Its chief transport services officer Mark Lambert said because of the late notice, there would not be a replacement bus service.

"During the morning peak in Auckland, we're operating nearly 1300 buses - they're all in service," he said.

"There's not a number of buses just lying around...so we're seeing what we can get, it's probably a handful."

Disgruntled train passengers

Geoff Fitzpatrick, who lives in Henderson, said the pre-Christmas end of week strike could not be coming at a more inconvenient time.

"It's annoying, I was meant to have after work drinks, our last one of the year and I have to drive now so I can't," he said.

And Hannah Thompson said she did not have the luxury of working from home.

"I'm a hairdresser so it's a really busy time of the year for us," she said.

"I have to come to work because there are clients relying on me to be there so I just have to make my way in somehow."


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