Queensland Rail to deliver report into Christmas Day cancellations

Jackie Trad has confirmed a report into QR’s Christmas Day failures will be handed in on Friday. Photo: Chris Hyde Acting Premier Jackie Trad says she has faith that Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe will sort out Queensland Rail issues. Photo: Jorge Branco
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The Queensland government will receive a report into the Christmas Day rail fail on Friday, although it will not be made public until besieged Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe has “digested” its contents.

Acting Premier Jackie Trad confirmed Mr Hinchliffe would receive the report on Friday into “what actually went wrong” when 235 services were cancelled on Christmas Day.

“He has made a commitment to release relevant information publicly, when he gets the report and he’s had time to review that report and digest it,” she said.

“I do know that the public is deeply, deeply interested in this, as is the government, we will make sure that the interest that is in the public benefit is released in relation to what happened on Christmas Day.

“There may be some issues relating to confidentiality, I’m not sure, I think he needs an opportunity to receive the report, to review it, and then make that decision [into how much will be released publicly].”

Mr Hinchliffe and Queensland Rail acting chief executive Jim Benstead have been reluctant to “guarantee” train services would run smoothly on New Year’s Eve.

But Ms Trad was willing to give a guarantee of a different sort when asked if Mr Hinchliffe would still have his job in 2017.

“I can guarantee that Stirling Hinchliffe will do the job that the Premier has asked him to do,” the Deputy Premier said.

Ms Trad apologised to passengers on behalf of the government for the inconveniences experienced as a result of the Christmas Day debacle.

“I do know that Minister Hinchliffe has been working very hard over the past number of days to make sure that New Year’s Eve celebrations are not disrupted in the same way,” she said.

“I know he’s had a number of briefings, he’s required Queensland Rail to provide him with specific information.”

Ms Trad said the rosters were full for New Year’s Eve services and Mr Hinchliffe had kept her updated.

“I can guarantee that the minister is working very hard, but there might be a fault in one of the lines, there might be a tragedy on one of the lines, because of all of these things, because of human nature, you cannot absolutely guarantee that every single train will run as planned,” she said.

In October 2015, a whistleblower contacted Ms Trad’s office warning of a looming driver shortage, when she was the transport minister.

Ms Trad said the information provided by the caller was not consistent with information being provided by Queensland Rail at the time.

“In fact, less than a month after, that call which was from an anonymous individual, Queensland Rail embarked upon the recruitment of 100 train drivers and 100 guards,” she said.

“Some four weeks after that there was a change in ministry.

“In terms of the information, the handover to Stirling Hinchliffe, I did outline as I have detailed in the past, the issues that Queensland Rail had advised me may be of concern in terms of the 2016 train issues.

“It was general issues, I did advise, in part of the incoming briefs, Stirling would have been advised that a recruitment process had been underway.”

Ms Trad said she believed chief operating officer Kevin Wright made the right decision in resigning.

“The minister has said that in relation to the Christmas Day rostering debacle, it was an issue in relation to the management of the rostering system,” she said.

“So management needed to take responsibility for that rostering problem and I think that given everything that happened on Christmas Day, the late notification, the spike in cancellations, it was incumbent on the minister to make some hard calls and I think he made the right call.”

Ms Trad said once the Philip Strachan review was received at the end of January, the government would look at the recommendations and make any necessary changes.

Acting Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said Queenslanders deserved to know what was in the report on the Christmas Day fiasco.

“I can tell this minister that the people of south-east Queensland would like also to digest this report and see the contents of his failings on Christmas Day,” she said.

“This is a minister that continues to play the blame game… This is now the third QR executive we’ve seen go on this incompetent minister’s watch.”

Ms Frecklington said it was not good enough that Ms Trad and Mr Hinchliffe had “refused to guarantee to the commuters of south-east Queensland that they’re going to be able to turn up to their party on time on New Year’s Eve”.

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