More than $140 million of taxpayers’ money has been spent by the Queensland Government to bring the rail network under control over the last two years, the Opposition says, calling Labor’s handling of the beleaguered network “deplorable”.
Opposition spokesman Steve Minnikin made the comments before budget estimates hearings into the transport portfolio got underway.
“This is not about the politicians, at the end of the day, it’s about the commuters — it’s deplorable,” Mr Minnikin said.
The spend includes $41.5 million on overtime payments, $1.5 million for ‘show up to work’ bonus payments during the Commonwealth Games, about $45 million for that Strachan Inquiry and its implementation costs, $51 million for additional payments to Queensland Rail, and about $193,000 in legal fees to take on the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU).
The LNP has long been blamed by the Labor Government for not hiring enough train drivers when it was in power from 2012 to 2015.
But Mr Minnikin said the problems should have been sorted out by now.
“They’ve got to stop doing the old blame game because it simply doesn’t cut the mustard anymore,” Mr Minnikin said..
“Almost two years down the track and the commuters of south-east Queensland are still expected to put up with 472 fewer train services per week.”
Transport Minister Mark Bailey refuted Mr Minnikin’s criticism, saying costs like overtime were unavoidable.
“They’re including figures that are part of the normal operation of any rail system in the world,” he said.
“Every rail system around the world has overtime because some train drivers and staff work in all kinds of hours to provide that public service.
“Working at midnight, working at five in the morning, of course you are going to pay overtime for people to do what is an ordinary service.
“One of the key reasons why we have the rail challenges we’ve got is they stopped the training of drivers for an entire year.”
Inquiry to find out what went wrong
Earlier this week the Queensland Government announced it would hold an inquiry into what went wrong with the design, delivery and rollout of its $4.4 billion new train fleet purchase.
The New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains were delivered more than 18 months late from an Indian builder, and require more than $150 million of extra funds to modify major defects to ensure they work properly.
The trains also did not comply with the state’s disability laws.
The State Government released the terms of reference today, for the inquiry by former District Court judge Michael Forde.
He will look into the decisions made by three different state governments, statutory authorities and departments that caused or contributed to the problems.
The inquiry will also look at project milestones, technical specifications, project sponsor arrangements and governance, along with examining the level of engagement with the disability sector.
The terms of reference said the commission could receive any document or other material it considered appropriate and conduct interviews and ask for and accept submissions, but it may not conduct hearings.
The Forde commission will need to report back to the Government by December 3, 2018.