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Queensland Rail could have saved millions over five months if it did not have to systematically rely on overtime.
Figures reveal the overtime cost for QR drivers and guards was $10.2 million from the beginning of October until February 19.
That was $4.1 million in overtime costs for guards and $6.1 million for drivers.
In her answer to an LNP question on notice, Deputy Premier and Transport Minister Jackie Trad said it was estimated that if timetabled services were operated during the time period, without the need to pay overtime, the cost of base salary wages for train drivers and guards would total more than $5.68 million.
QR has been under fire for months following the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula Line in October, which revealed a shortage of train crew and culture problems that led to a reluctance to share bad news.
A QR preference to operate with a 5-10 per cent undersupply of train crew and a consequent overreliance on overtime were listed as contributing factors to the beleaguered operator's troubles in Phillip Strachan's report.
In the months leading up to the new timetable in October, QR staff worked unsustainable levels of overtime.
LNP opposition transport spokesman Andrew Powell said $1 million of taxpayers' money was being handed out in overtime every fortnight while more than 1800 services were cut each month.
"Since October last year, taxpayers have paid more than $10 million in overtime because Labor ran out of drivers - this is $4.5 million more than would normally have been paid in wages," Mr Powell said.
Mr Strachan's report recommended opening recruitment for drivers and guards to people outside the organisation, and to those with no prior experience, to boost staff numbers and end a reliance on overtime.
Queensland Rail advertised for new drivers in February, but it called for people with prior experience as a train driver at QR.
Mr Powell was critical that QR had not opened up to external recruits yet.
"The government's own report says that full external recruitment won't happen until late 2018 - it's not good enough," he said.
In her response to the question on notice, Ms Trad said QR was working to implement the Commission of Inquiry recommendations and the government's five-point plan, to boost train crew numbers and restore services.
"One recommendation from the Commission of Inquiry is that Queensland Rail deliver and maintain a structural surplus of train crew to enable operations to be conducted without the systemic reliance on overtime, discretionary shifts and tutors and inspectors in operational capacities," Ms Trad wrote.
"As such, Queensland Rail has advertised externally for ex-Queensland Rail drivers to apply to re-join its ranks."
Ms Trad said the government was accelerating the training process so more train crew could become qualified more quickly.
"This is already well underway and last month we welcomed the largest ever classes of drivers and guards," she said.
Ms Trad said the government prioritised recruiting former QR employees because it was the safest, fastest way to get more drivers on the network.
"However, we are completely committed to external recruitment, as recommended in the report," she said.
This article first appeared on www.brisbanetimes.com.au
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