Queensland Rail crisis: Stirling Hinchliffe warned of driver shortages, email reveals

Queensland’s transport minister is once again under the spotlight after an email to his office in March warned him of looming train driver shortages.

Stirling Hinchliffe has come under increasing pressure over the past week as a staffing crisis at Queensland Rail forced the cancellation of more than 100 services

The situation has already forced QR chief executive Helen Gluer and board chairman Michael Klug to quit while the service continues to operate on an interim timetable.

Now, an email to Mr Hinchcliffe’s office in March has emerged, sent by a Queensland-based public transport advocate who said he foresaw trouble ahead with the Moreton Bay rail link as well as a lack of drivers for new trains that the network was receiving.

“Now there is a story for the press ‘New Trains, No drivers’,” the email from Paul Pluta reads.

“Your current drivers can’t drive the trains, and you need 60 more and you have not even begun training, your department said we would see those services running in 2016 and it takes at least 12 months to train a new driver, the equipment to train the drivers on the new trains is not even installed.”

A spokesperson for Mr Hinchcliffe said his office had responded to the email, which relates to 75 new trains, the first few of which are currently being tested and won’t begin running until next year.

“As the minister has said, until very recently he was consistently advised and assured by Queensland Rail crewing levels were acceptable and service levels could be met,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“(The reply) advised Queensland Rail was undertaking recruitment for additional train crew in anticipation of the arrival of the New Generation Rollingstock.”

The email was received in the months after the government lifted a freeze on recruitment that had been set under the former government and it was also sent to the office of shadow treasurer Scott Emerson, Mr Hinchcliffe’s spokesperson said.

Mr Emerson said the email shows Mr Hinchliffe had been given warning of the impending issue months before it occurred.

“Stirling Hinchliffe has been telling Queenslanders he knew nothing about these issues until he was briefed by Queensland Rail last Thursday – we now know that’s simply not true,” Mr Emerson said.”

“For months Labor has been assuring Queenslanders it was prepared for the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line, but clearly someone wasn’t keeping a close enough eye on things.

“The buck stops with the minister.”


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