Sydney commuters are set to face huge disruptions after NSW rail workers failed to agree to a compromised offer from Sydney and NSW Trains management to end the looming strike action.
Only six per cent of 6100 members supported calling off the industrial action over pay and conditions when surveyed via mobile phone on Wednesday.
As of Thursday, services will be cut from 2900 to 1600 daytime services, due to industrial action placing an indefinite ban on overtime.
Commuters suffered through delays of up to 90 minutes last week when 70 workers called in sick, so cancellation of 1300 services is expected to cause major issues.
The union members' industrial action will culminate in a 24-hour strike on Monday, with passengers forced to find alternative ways of getting to work.
In a bid to ease the problem, over 500 buses and coaches will be rolled out on Thursday, including 280 during the morning peak and 230 for the afternoon rush, ready to be deployed when necessary.
"If any of those stations in strategic locations get overcrowded in the peak, Sydney Trains can call those buses in," Transport NSW coordinator general Marg Prendergast said.
But with buses as well as tram and ferry services already running at near full capacity, all commuters are expected to feel the strain with some bus services to be cancelled to support busier routes.
Ms Prendergast called on the city to "listen and change its behaviour" and avoid heading to the office to ensure the city can handle the disruption as best as possible.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged commuters to check timetables and to avoid travelling during the peak hours of 7am to 9am and 4pm to 6pm.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance says trains will operate on a Saturday schedule, cutting services across the state on Thursday and Australia Day on Friday.
"Tomorrow is going to be disruptive," he said.
Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins urged passengers to check travel times before their journeys.
“My advice to customers is to try and avoid those rush hour times. We will get you to your destination, it may just mean changing your plans,” he said on Tuesday.
NSW Transport has urged employers to talk with their staff about alternative working arrangements such as working from home or taking annual leave.
Commuters have been warned to allow plenty of extra travel time, especially if travelling by road with busier than normal congestion expected.
Those travelling through Epping, Strathfield, Chatswood, Parramatta, Blacktown or Hurstville and of course the City Circle are really going to feel it.
NSW Transport confirmed that T5 Cumberland Line services will be cancelled from Friday until Sunday with a shuttle train service running between Blacktown and Richmond.
T6 Carlingford Line services are also cancelled from Friday until Sunday, with buses replacing trains between Clyde and Carlingford.
Some additional services will be available to supplement Australia Day services and events at Sydney Olympic Park after 4pm.
Despite most attention being on Sydney, the strike and overtime refusal will affect all services across NSW, including interstate trips.
All school bus services in Sydney will not run on Monday.
The union initially wanted a six per cent pay rise and improved conditions, with members now considering a 2.75 per cent increase as part of a package that also includes free bus travel and a one-off $1000 payment.
Despite the failure to reach an agreement on Wednesday, negotiations are ongoing and some cancelled services would return on Thursday if an agreement was reached overnight.
"I have spoken to the minister this afternoon and I've asked him to come to the table tomorrow and negotiate properly with the members so we can try and avert what is potentially going to happen on Monday," Rail, Tram and Bus Union secretary Alex Claassens said.