Coronavirus social distancing breaches continue on SA trains despite expanded peak-hour services

Concerns over a lack of social distancing on crammed Adelaide trains have persisted, with boosted services failing to fix the issue despite a Government commitment for a resumption of the normal timetable.

Commuters on one early morning train from Salisbury were “nose to tail” according to ABC Radio Adelaide reporter Spence Denny, with the service leaving standing room only.

The lack of space comes days after South Australian Premier Steven Marshall promised an increased capacity of one train every 15 minutes during peak hour to reduce overcrowding.

Adelaide Metro’s services were reduced earlier this month after a mechanical fault was identified, taking 50 of the state’s 70 diesel engines out of use temporarily and forcing half-hourly trains on some lines.

“My understanding is they’ll all be back in service on Monday, and we’ll be back to those 15-minute time zones in the peak hours on those main lines,” Mr Marshall said on Friday.

SA Labor published several images on social media of passengers packed into trains on the Gawler line on Monday, but a Liberal spokesperson said trains ran every 15 minutes during peak hour on the line.

Commuters were packed on trains along the Gawler line on Monday.(Supplied: SA Labor)

Mr Marshall told reporters that he had not yet seen records of Monday’s services, but that “the reality is there are far more trains on our tracks in South Australia than there were last week”.

He said he was concerned about the images surfacing on social media, labelling it “a real issue”.

“What we saw last week was a lot of people getting on earlier or getting on later, and this really did spread that load, and we’re asking people to continue with this.”

Commuters express concern as Labor pushes for changes

One passenger told ABC Radio Adelaide that communication with commuters had been poor.

“I don’t think they’re being updated enough. They don’t really know what’s happening,” he said.

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said the government needs to come up with alternative modes of transportation to reduce overcrowding.

“If the government isn’t able to go back to full operation of train services, as Steven Marshall committed to last Friday, then they need to have substitute bus services running to enable social distancing to take place on public transport, as Professor Nicola Spurrier recommended last week,” he said.

SA Health guidelines state a minimum distance of 1.5 metres should be kept between people, while enclosed spaces should leave four square metres for every one person.

In response to concerns aired last week, Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said it would be safer for passengers to avoid public transport in some circumstances.

Mr Marshall said public transport continued to be an issue globally during the coronavirus pandemic.

He pointed to National Cabinet waiting on advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee about the best way to marry social distancing guidelines and public transport.

“This is a national issue — quite frankly, it’s an international issue — and we need some clarity,” he said.

“But as you would all know, right from day one, dealing with COVID-19, public transport has been an exemption from the restrictions.

“There’s been an exemption from transport as well … We’ve got to keep goods and services [moving] and we’ve got to keep people moving as well.”

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