The Queensland Government has admitted it does not know when hundreds of train services will be restored, nearly two years after the so-called “rail fail” that saw rides slashed from the timetable.
The rail network has again been plunged into chaos, after three directors of Queensland Rail (QR) — chairman Philip Strachan, Paul Wallis and Sandra Birkensleigh — suddenly resigned on Thursday.
Mr Strachan was catapulted into the position to fix the failing system in 2017, but came under scrutiny earlier this week for signing off on $3.6 million of bonuses for senior staff.
Transport Minister Mark Bailey this morning could not name a date for when hundreds of the cancelled services would be restored.
“The date I have in mind … is as soon as possible,” he said.
“We will have a date … when we are absolutely certain that we have the sustainability, in terms of the number of drivers and resources to ensure that it definitely can be delivered — there’s a few issues to work through in terms of that.”
Mr Bailey refused to say why the State Government’s handpicked chairman had quit.
“That’s probably a matter for Phillip,” Mr Bailey told the ABC.
“I certainly said to him I was very keen to work with him in the future to continue the process of reform.
“I respect [his decision] and he’s made a substantial contribution.”
Government blocks $3.6m in staff bonuses
Ms Palaszczuk appointed inquiry head Phillip Strachan as QR chairman last year. (ABC News: Chris O’Brien)
Earlier this week it was revealed the QR board had approved $3.6 million in bonuses for senior management, despite ongoing issues with the rail network.
The Queensland Government was forced to intervene to block the bonuses of up to 15 per cent, which would have been given to about 380 senior staffers.
Mr Bailey would not say whether his intervention forced the mass resignations.
Mr Strachan was hired by the Government in 2016 to conduct a commission of inquiry into the failing network after hundreds of train services were cancelled due to a shortage of train drivers and guards.
Mr Strachan’s investigation found there were systemic issues with recruitment and that QR had a culture of “complacency”.
The State Government appointed Mr Strachan as QR chairman in February last year on the back of his “comprehensive review”.
The Opposition yesterday called for Mr Bailey to resign over the furore and said it showed fundamental problems with the Minister’s management of the rail portfolio.
But Mr Bailey said he would not be leaving his position.
“I think the LNP’s only policy is calling for me to resign and of course we inherited the mess they left us with,” Mr Bailey said.
The Government said the process to replace the chair and director positions had started today.