THOUSANDS of struggling CBD businesses were battered again by rolling rail strikes in August as train passenger numbers plunged 8.5 per cent for the month.
Transport NSW figures for August, when the Rail, Tram and Bus Union staged a series of targeted strikes, show 727,495 passengers tapped on with their Opal cards, compared to 792,853 in May.
Executive director of Business Sydney Paul Nicolaou said the strikes had “hurt thousands of small and medium-sized businesses in the CBD in particular but many larger ones indirectly as well”.
The strikes also helped “entrench” a work-from-home culture crippling the city’s recovery from Covid lockdowns, he said.
“Each day the trains aren’t running can slash takings for a retail or hospitality business by around 25 per cent and for businesses close to a train station, the loss is more like a 40 per cent cut,” he said.
“In the big picture the strikes entrench the work-from-home culture that is affecting the whole city by crippling the CBD economy.”
Transport Minister David Elliott said “this is why Sydneysiders have turned on the union.”
“They have expired all public support. This has gone beyond affecting commuters, students and families. It’s now having an extremely detrimental effect on our economy and our Covid recovery.”
Peter Galettis, owner of Sydney City Pharmacy in the Queen Victoria Building, felt the impact on his bottom line.
“My business has been affected terribly,” he said. “It’s the inconsistency of the trains that’s the real problem.”
Mr Galettis said while he understood the union’s concerns, the strikes were hurting commuters and businesses.
“We’re the victims,” he said. “I’ve never seen the QVB so quiet.”
While the RTBU action in August included leaving gates open at train stations, it’s understood Transport NSW was pleased by the high number of commuters continuing to tap on for their trips.
Labor leader Chris Minns declined to comment yesterday on revelations a union email to members stated, “This government does not deserve a moment of peace between now and the next election.”
Treasurer Matt Kean seized on the memo and claimed it showed the strikes were politically motivated.
RTBU NSW Secretary Alex Claassens said it was “disingenuous” of the government to blame the drop in commuters on the union.