Stirling Hinchcliffe has resigned as Transport Minister
Stirling Hinchcliffe has resigned as Transport Minister Brett Wortman / 187286

Minister resigns over epic Queensland Rail fail

TRANSPORT Minister Stirling Hinchliffe has resigned in the wake of a damning report into southeast Queensland's rail fail that found commuters can expect ongoing train cancellations until at least the end of 2018, with no new drivers out of the 200 promised fully trained.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk thanked Mr Hinchliffe for his service, announcing his resignation as she addressed the findings of the Strachan Report into the southeast Queensland rail fail.

He will remain leader of the house

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad will serve as acting Transport Minister with Treasurer Curtis Pitt will take over as acting Commonwealth Games Minister.

Ms Palaszczuk committed to implementing all 36 of Commissioner Phillip Strachan's recommendations, naming Mr Strachan as QR's new chairman.

The time frame to fix the driver shortage could put at risk services to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and cause further issues during school holiday periods.

The Strachan Commission of Inquiry into Queensland Rail, released today, has found the organisation has major cultural issues and an overly complex structure which prevented information about the impending timetable crisis being brought to the attention of those who could solve it.

"There was a culture within the Operations team of intuitive decision-making, complacency, and reluctance to sharing bad news," the report said.

The Inquiry confirms that senior QR figures were warned on four times about the driver shortage, with the earliest formal notification in March 2015.

But QR management kept the rail operator's board, Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe and Treasurer Curtis Pitt in the dark about how bad the problem would become.

"For the avoidance of doubt, the Commission has concluded that the Responsible Ministers were not appropriately informed of the risk of a train crew shortfall prior to the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line nor of the magnitude and longevity of the issues faced from October 2016," the report states.

The Inquiry found the first time the State Government was directly notified by QR about the driver shortfall was on October 2, just two days before the new timetable for the Redcliffe Peninsula Line was due to take effect.

It also warns the problems within QR are so bad there may be "the existence of further cultural issues across the broader organisation", which were not discovered by the Inquiry.

The risk-management processes used by QR receive criticism in the report, along with the actions of former chief executive Helen Gluer - and three other senior managers - for not questioning the advice she was receiving in relation to the looming driver shortage.

"As a result of the inadequacies in the execution of Queensland Rail's risk management processes, it was only on 1 October 2016 that the Chief Executive Officer became aware of the seriousness of the train crewing deficit, after being forwarded an email detailing the extent of the issue," the report said.

"This email identified that Queensland Rail then had a shortfall of approximately 62 drivers and 83 guards and that the timetable to be implemented on 4 October 2016 would exacerbate the shortfall of train crew."

It also found restrictive workplace conditions agreed to with the rail unions contributed to the rail fail. After the Redcliffe Peninsula Line was opened there were an increase in services of nine per cent, according to the initial timetable, but about the same time there was a seven per cent drop in train crew productivity - this coincided with the introduction of a 20-minute comfort break given to all staff who had worked more than 2.5 hours.

One of the Commission's recommendations includes opening up the recruitment processes to external applicants. The current policy in the enterprise agreement between the unions and QR heavily favours existing staff, which have to be offered the opportunity to apply first.

The Strachan Inquiry included 36 recommendations to improve QR's performance and reporting to the State Government.

RECOMMENDATIONS

- Establish a Rail Review Office to monitor and independently audit QR's response and recovery plan and the progress of the Commission of Inquiry's recommendations

- Task the Rail Review Office with investigating and implementing a "closely integrated public transport service" model

 

- Undertake an assessment of the capabilities of the Executive and Senior Leadership teams and recruit new people if deficiencies are found

- Overhaul and simplify communications to the State Government

- Overall QR's risk management approach

- Implement a communications plan to restore public confidence in the CItyTrain network

- Conduct a comprehensive cultural assessment of QR and develop a multi-year action plan

- Open recruitment for drivers and guards to external applications

- Develop five-year rolling forecast of demand and supply for train crew to prevent further critical shortages

Hinchcliffe's Statement

Today I offered my resignation to the Premier as Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games. 

Whilst this has been a tough personal decision, I believe it is in the best interests of the Palaszczuk Government. 

The issues at Queensland Rail have been some of the most challenging and, at times, frustrating issues I have needed to manage as a Minister. I know that they have been a distraction for the Government's core task of delivering jobs for Queenslanders. 

Now that the Commission of Inquiry has concluded and the Government delivered its response, I believe that Queensland Rail and the Transport portfolio have the path prepared for a fresh start to get back to delivering for our passengers. 

The findings of Mr Strachan demonstrate that no Minister or Government could have foreseen driver shortage issue due the Queensland Rail mismanagement. I'm pleased that following a rough slog we have been able to begin to turn this issue around and today marks a line in the sand on the matter. 

I thank the Premier and the whole Cabinet for their support. 

At the Premier's request I shall remain Leader of the House and will be recontesting the next election to continue as the Member for Sandgate.

News Corp Australia


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