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Social distancing ‘out the window’ at Sydney’s train stations

2 weeks ago 6

Platforms at Sydney’s busiest train station were packed on Tuesday afternoon, with some commuters visibly uncomfortable as social distancing became impossible.

Shocking pictures taken at Central Station between 3.30pm and 4.30pm show school students and adults standing close to each other, many not wearing masks.

The pictures come as train use appears to be on the rise with data from Transport for NSW showing travel on the public transport network had risen 12 per cent from June to July.

Station staff added to the discomfort, as many milled about on the platform not wearing masks.

On-board the train, things were not much better.

Passengers stood in carriage entryways as socially distanced seats filled up, and one group of schoolchildren took up six seats as their friends spilt into the aisle.

One woman sitting nearby was visibly uncomfortable as she told her friend social distancing had “gone out the window”.

A Transport for NSW spokeswoman told NCA NewsWire the guidelines around social distancing on public transport did not apply to schoolchildren.

She said under current health advice, they were not required to stick to green dots on platforms or trains, though they were advised to group together away from other commuters.

Trains have become a hot spot for COVID cases with passengers on 15 different train services and eight bus routes warned to monitor for symptoms in the past two weeks alone.

Mask wearing in August on Sydney’s train stations was revealed to be as low as 30 per cent despite repeated comments from Transport Minister Andrew Constance and Premier Gladys Berejiklian that covering up was “strongly encouraged”.

And while staff were milling about on the platforms on Tuesday, none of them were tasked with enforcing any COVID regulations, leaving them powerless to do anything about it.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union has called for more staff across the public transport network to monitor the behaviour of commuters and help enforce regulations when they are not being followed.

“Overcrowding, especially without use of masks, puts the health of everyone on the network at risk,” union secretary Alex Classens said.

“It is simply not enough for the NSW Government to introduce guidelines for the public to follow and hope for the best.”

A Transport for NSW statement noted that on average over the past few months, patronage across the public transport network had remained steady at about 55 per cent of pre-COVID levels.

“Transport for NSW has implemented a range of measures to help guide customer’s actions. This includes signs and regular announcements on trains and at stations, and green physical distancing dots have been placed across the public transport network to guide customers where to stand sit,” the statement read.

“We do need everyone to take personal responsibility when using our services, and we thank our customers who have retimed their trip, considered all their travel options, including walking, cycling and driving, and continued to physically distance while on the network.”

Transport Minister Andrew Constance has been contacted for comment.

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