Only 16 extra full-time train drivers are working for Queensland Rail more than a year on from the mass cancellations and disruptions that brought the network to a halt.
The 2016 “rail fail” prompted a major commission of inquiry, which found more drivers were needed to fix timetable problems across the south-east Queensland network.
Earlier this week, Transport Minister Mark Bailey said 69 drivers had been recruited and trained since the Strachan Report was handed down in early 2017.
But Queensland Rail CEO Nick Easy confirmed that figure failed to include natural attrition.
He said the net increase of drivers was 33, made up of 16 drivers who had completed training and an additional 17 who were qualified to drive trains but instead worked as tutors or instructors.
The 12-month-long training program has been blamed for the low numbers, but Mr Easy said there were a further 143 people that had been recruited and a number of those were currently being trained.
“We’ve always said this would take time and we’re just starting to see the benefits of what is an extensive recruitment program that will deliver a pipeline of drivers moving forward,” he told ABC Radio Brisbane.
The opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line in 2016 triggered widespread disruptions and cancellations in late 2016.
It cost former transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe his job, along with other senior Queensland Rail staff.
A review into the rail crisis by consultant Phillip Strachan included recommendations of a structural surplus of train crew without a systemic reliance on overtime.
Mr Strachan said about 120 extra drivers were needed before a full timetable could return, and that was unlikely to occur before late 2018.
Queensland Rail confident of major boost by late 2019
The review said Queensland Rail had undertaken two significant recruitment drives with a target of a total of 200 drivers and 200 guards.
Mr Easy said he was confident they would reach their target by late 2019.
“We’re on the journey to restore services … I do think we will see a timetable that is restored and we’re working to that timeframe,” he said.
A spokesman for lobby group RAIL Back On Track, Robert Down, said he expected it would take six years before the full timetable was restored.
“The present rate is not satisfactory,” he said.
“They’re really going to have to increase the rate that they’re producing qualified train drivers.”