Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Sydney gets first robot trains

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Australia’s first driverless passenger trains began running on Sydney’s new Metro Northwest line in late May. The $7.3 billion line is New South Wales’ first privatised rail service and forms part of the Liberal state governments anti-worker agenda, and their vision for a techno-dystopia.

Robot trains on the Rouse Hill to Chatswood route were beset by problems from their first day. Trains overshot platforms, doors failed to open and one train even stopped dead between stations. A laughably titled “Customer Journey Coordinator” had to take control of the broken train to drive it to the next stop.

In another incident, a power failure forced frustrated commuters to switch to bus replacements.

Sydney Metro operator MTR is a Hong Kong state-owned rail multi-national. They are majority shareholders in scores of privatised railways globally, including Melbourne’s privatised suburban railway operator Metro Trains.

They have a dubious anti-union record around the world. They even cooperate with the Chinese dictatorship’s anti-democratic repression in Hong Kong.

Sydney residents are suffering the effects of profit-first planning, decades of under-investment and the resulting congestion in their city. The interests of property developers are put above the needs of ordinary city dwellers.

The desperate need for increased and improved public transport will see many welcome the opening of the new line. But Transport Minister Andrew Constance – widely hated by Sydney’s transport workers – made his vision clear at a business meeting in 2017.

Constance said automated trains and buses would put workers out of their jobs, end the rail union and allow privatisation. The experience of privatisation has been a disaster for workers and commuters alike across Australia and must be pushed back.

MTR and the Liberals want to eliminate workers to make fatter profits. Socialist policy would be to share out the benefits of new technology. We could deliver a safer, more reliable system for commuters and better wages and conditions for workers, including a shortened working week and reduced unemployment.

By a public transport worker


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