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A FORMER top Queensland Rail executive who resigned amid the rail fail saga has blamed the unions and the Palaszczuk Government for the crisis.
Former chief operating officer Kevin Wright, who retired in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bungle that saw about a third of services cancelled, spoke for the first time today almost a year after mass cancellations plagued the rail operator following the opening of the Redcliffe line and a new timetable.
Mr Wright told ABC Radio the entire saga was caused by new union rules he believed were negotiated with QR representatives that afforded drivers and crew new breaks and decreased the time they were available to drive.
He said, despite his role as head of operations, he was not told that new breaks for train crew had been brought in.
“I certainly hadn’t approved or signed any documentation to alter their current enterprise agreement,” he said.
“It completely changed the way you could roster train crew, the way that train crew travelled spare when going to one job to another.
“It meant that they couldn’t be driving trains as long as they could previously without a break, which meant that you had put different train crew in place to relieve them en route.
“So they couldn’t’ go, in a lot of cases, from one end of the corridor to the other end of the corridor without having another driver and guard to relieve them.”
He said it meant a train from Ipswich to Caboolture would need two or three driver changes to comply with the new union rules.
“If you look at how many drivers were short each day and you look at the number of trains that were cancelled it definitely tells you that something had changed in the way the train crews were rostered,” he said.
He said he went to the then Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe and the acting chair of QR to argue that the saga could be eased if the new union rules were dropped.
“I felt very frustrated because I knew what the answer was ... there were so many people within QR who actually knew how to fix the problem but that wasn’t going to happen at the time,” he said.
“If the unions would have worked with us we could have fixed the problem virtually straight away when the new timetable came in.
“I think that I was a scapegoat for something that could have been fixed had the right people taken action to listen to how it could have been put back on track again.
“I see it (those people) as (the) Government.”
Opposition transport spokesman Andrew Powell said the “spineless” Government was clearly responsible for the mess.
“Kevin Wright’s admission today that the Palaszczuk Government could have fixed the timetabling problems ‘straight away’ if the unions weren’t calling the shots is an indictment on the Labor Party and their union masters,” he said.
“Why didn’t Annastacia Palaszczuk accept Mr Wright’s solution and stand up for passengers instead of the RTBU (Rail Tram and Bus Union)?
“Why do commuters have to accept a cut of 1,800 services each month because the Premier is spineless?
“Labor’s rail fail is disgraceful and commuters know who’s to blame.”
A Government spokeswoman refused to comment on Mr Wright’s allegations.
Instead, a statement said the Palaszczuk Government was working with QR to implement all recommendations of the Strachan Commission of Inquiry including commencing full external recruitment.
“QR has worked hard to stabilise operations and deliver a number of improvements in key areas, including returning peak on-time running to more than 94 per cent and significantly decreasing service cancellations,” it said.
“We have recruited more than 100 trainee drivers and 260 trainee guards, and 35 drivers and 96 guards are now fully qualified and working out on the network.”
This article first appeared on www.couriermail.com.au
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