Hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders will be restricted from travelling into the CBD under new public transport measures.

Hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders will be restricted from travelling into the CBD under new public transport measures.

Trains will run at 24 per cent capacity and buses at 14 per cent for the foreseeable future, meaning Sydneysiders may be prevented from entering railway stations as they fill up or watch near-empty buses drive past their stops. School children will be prioritised on these usual services, according to the government.
But as the government announced the strict new measures on Monday, the citys bus drivers were being given a directive by State Transit not to enforce social distancing or turn any passengers away.
In a briefing note obtained by the Herald, bus drivers were told: “You should advise customers when you have reached capacity under the new physical distancing guidelines but do not refuse them travel.”
Cleaners at work while wearing PPE in Sydney.Credit:Louise Kennerley
The note went on to say that bus drivers “must not enforce physical distancing,” must continue to stop as normal along their route and never leave school children behind at stops.
“Physical distancing may not always be practical, especially in peak periods,” the note says.
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said there was no fine for breaking physical distancing on public transport.
The new COVID-19 restrictions mean articulated or “bending” buses that usually carry 115 people will now be limited to 11, restricting high-frequency movements across the city.
University of Technology transport expert Mathew Hounsell said the government was likely designing its new “cautious” transport strategy to be deliberately prohibitive to force anyone that didnt have to travel to stay at home.
“I think that might be part of their strategy, and its reasonable, sometimes restricting supply for an oversupplied good is a way of getting to do things differently,” Mr Hounsell said.
“You’ll either need five times the buses, or you can only move a fifth of the people. It’s simple math.”
A bus driver speaking on the condition of anonymity said the advice given to them was based on concerns that public transport workers would be assaulted by frustrated commuters if they were turned away.
An empty Sydney Harbour Bridge during the COVID-19 shutdown.Credit:Transport for NSW
“The minister is saying one thing and State Transit is saying another,” the driver said of the contrast between the governments public messaging compared to what staff were being told.
“The reason for that is that before we get those screens in the buses, people are scared some commuters will spit on them.”
Asked why bus drivers were being told not to enforce social distancing, a TfNSW spokeswoman said frontline transport staff had been doing “an amazing job” and urged commuters to give them “respect and understanding”.
People who opt to drive into the city will have the option of free parking at Moore Park and catching a shuttle bus or light rail service into the city. Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore said Wentworth Park was also being considered as a temporary parking venue.
Seating is cleaned on Milsons Point Train station platform on Monday.Credit:James Brickwood
Up to 90 per cent of the CBDs private car parks are also empty, according to the government, which is in discussions with businesses as to how to utilise that space.
Bracing for a huge increase in road traffic as people switch from trains to cars, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance pleaded with people to commute outside peak hours.
“I can understand that some frustrations might want to creep in, but thats when people need to step up, show some self-responsibility and do the right thing by the people that are there to serve you,” Mr Constance said.
While the government has rolled out about 10 kilometres of temporary cycleways at a cost of $4 million, Paris has installed 650 kilometres, while Britain has committed £2 billion ($3.7 billion) for cycle paths, according to think tank the Commission for Sydney.
Cr Moore welcomed the new cycleways through the city but lamented the fact people would soon need to use Moore Park as a parking lot.
Tom Rabe is Transport Reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.
Alexandra Smith is the State Political Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.

Share