The key errors in $336m rail fail

A BLUNDER by the former LNP Government in ordering a new train fleet that flunked disability access laws will cost $336 million to fix - more than twice the price originally thought.

The Palaszczuk Government announced its plan to fix design flaws under the $4.4 billion New Generation Rollingstock project yesterday while delivering the findings of a Commission of Inquiry into how 75 trains were ordered with toilets either too small or inaccessible to disabled commuters.

It will see an extra toilet added to each of the trains and the toilets made bigger.

Commissioner Michael Forde yesterday said a lack of "genuine consultation" with the disability sector before the contract was signed in 2013 and a decision by project managers to agree to a contract that did not comply with disability access legislation were key errors.

Middle managers did not escalate the problems to senior decision makers and had a "general acquiescence" to non-compliance with disability access legislation, planning to "fix it later."

Former District Court Judge Michael Forde found the NGR design’s non-compliance with disability access laws was not escalated to senior decision makers. (AAP Image/Darren England)
Former District Court Judge Michael Forde found the NGR design’s non-compliance with disability access laws was not escalated to senior decision makers. (AAP Image/Darren England)

No fault was found with a decision to build the trains in India by Canadian manufacturer Bombardier, contrary to a Labor election campaign strategy in 2017 to attack the decision.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad first criticised the State Opposition in March 2017 for ordering "half price trains" from India, saying: "you get what you pay for."

 

Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad attacked the LNP administration’s decision to send manufacturing of the New Generation Rollingstock trains offshore. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)
Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad attacked the LNP administration’s decision to send manufacturing of the New Generation Rollingstock trains offshore. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)

 

The message was later adopted in Labor's successful re-election campaign when Annastacia Palaszczuk travelled to Maryborough to guarantee the repair work to local firm Downer EDI.

The pledge coincided with a union local jobs campaign and was dubbed the "Save Bruce Strategy" - a reference to local Labor MP Bruce Saunders' battle to retain his marginal seat.

Labor directed the work be subcontracted to Downer by Bombardier under the plan.

The work was not tendered, but the Government said there would be an "open book audit."

It was only revealed months after the election that the plan hinged on a $10 million taxpayer-funded upgrade to the Maryborough plant as it could not handle the longer NGR trains.

Transport Minister Mark Bailey defended Labor’s handling of the rectification work (AAP Image/Darren England)
Transport Minister Mark Bailey defended Labor’s handling of the rectification work (AAP Image/Darren England)

 

Transport Minister Mark Bailey yesterday defended Labor's decision to attack the LNP for sending the work offshore and insisted "the most cost effective way and the quickest way was to go to the workshops in Maryborough in striking distance to Queensland" to fix the trains.

Bombardier had offered in 2017 to fix the trains at its Dandenong facility at an unknown cost.

The trains will be rectified by 2024 - 16 years after the project first started under the Labor-Bligh Government in 2008.

 

An NGR train being shipped from Mumbai, India to Queensland (Photo: Mumbai Port Trust).
An NGR train being shipped from Mumbai, India to Queensland (Photo: Mumbai Port Trust).

It has hit major delays, with just 37 NGR trains running, compared to plans for all 75 to be in service by the end of this year.



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