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THE man appointed to lead Queensland Rail out of crisis was at the helm of a UK transport body when $116 million was sunk into a tram project without a single piece of track being laid.
Acting QR chief executive Neil Scales said he put his hand up for the job of fixing southeast Queensland’s train driver shortage as he had “40-odd years of experience in transport” and could “hit the ground running”.
That included 13 years running Liverpool public transport body Merseytravel in the UK.
Acting Queensland Rail chief executive Neil Scales with Minister for Transport Stirling Hinchliffe. Pic: Tara Croser.Mr Scales was then one of the UK’s most senior public transport executives. In 2005, he was awarded an OBE for his work in the sector.
But The Sunday Mail can reveal Mr Scales was in charge at Merseytravel when millions of dollars in taxpayers’ cash was wasted on failed projects and questionable spending.
Four separate reviews dissected the spending, finding problems with transparency around decision making and “significant governance concerns”.
Among the waste was $116 million spent on an aborted tram scheme from 2001-06.
Merseytravel “should not have committed resources at the rate it did”, an audit referred to in a report by KPMG found in 2012.
Another $6.6 million a year was spent on moving to a “prestigious, high-cost” new building “clearly excessive” to Merseytravel’s needs.
Acting Queensland Rail CEO Neil Scales. Pic: Annette Dew
Merseytravel’s embattled chairman Mark Dowd stood down in 2012, while Mr Scales resigned in late 2011 and took up a $220,000-a-year job in Brisbane as head of TransLink the following year.
He was elevated to Transport and Main Roads director-general in late 2012 before being appointed acting chief executive at QR last month after rail boss Helen Gluer fell on her sword over the driver shortage.
Mr Scales declined to be interviewed, but the QR board released a statement responding to a series of detailed questions about Mr Scales’ tenure at Merseytravel.
“The Queensland Rail Board noted the experience of Mr Neil Scales and ratified his appointment to the acting chief executive officer role.”
A recruitment firm was being sought to lead an international search for a full-time chief executive, it said.
This article first appeared on www.couriermail.com.au
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