Former Queensland Rail chairman Phillip Strachan quit in October. Picture: Tara Croser
Former Queensland Rail chairman Phillip Strachan quit in October. Picture: Tara Croser

Reason QR boss quit after bonuses scandal

QUEENSLAND Rail chairman Phillip Strachan quit the board last month over Government interference in his agenda to transform QR's poor culture in the wake of the "Rail Fail."

Mr Strachan wrote to the ministers on October 3, a day after they signed off on blocking QR from paying $3.6 million in bonuses to about 384 of its senior executives and managers.

Mr Strachan, who was put in charge of overseeing QR's recovery in 2017, argues in the letter that performance criteria had been set for staff in July 2017 and submitted to the Government.

He continued that he spoke to Mr Bailey three times about the bonuses and the "direction it was heading, noting each time that the performance payment assessment was at the discretion of the Board" and had advised him of the outcome at his first opportunity.

Mr Strachan argued that halting bonuses was inconsistent with the performance cultural change the Board was driving.

QR's poor culture was a key criticism of the 2017 findings on the train driver shortage inquiry led by Strachan before he was appointed chairman.

He says in the letter that it was particularly disappointing for staff to hear the bonuses had been cancelled via the media "when all have worked extremely hard to recover and stabilise the business."

"Many employees have worked extraordinary hours during the past 12 months," he says. "The Board's focus has also been to change the culture of QR and rebuild the business.

"To that end we have added new senior leadership to the team over the past 12 months, none of who were with the business when the timetable failed in 2016 and the Board was looking to reward that contribution."

Mr Strachan sent a brief resignation on October 4, noting: "It is unfortunate that I do not have your ongoing support." Two board members quit after his resignation, including Sandra Birkensleigh, who told the ministers QR staff had been "maligned and treated with disdain".

The ministers' October 2 direction letter states QR had failed to meet the key objective to restore a full timetable and bonuses were out of line with "community expectation."

"QR continues to face significant challenges in recruiting a surplus of train crew, reducing overtime to sustainable levels, restoring the timetable to pre-October 2016 levels and rebuilding public confidence in the Citytrain system."