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The Queensland government will officially "accept" one of its New Generation Rollingstock trains - about two years after they actually arrived in the country.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad halted the delivery of the trouble-plagued trains in March, following the discovery of significant issues.
There were problems with braking, air-conditioning, driver's cab, ventilation, sight lines for drivers, guard space and disability access.
The first NGR trains were due to be operational in mid-2016, but there were only 15 out of the 75 trains in total in Queensland.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad says the beleaguered Next Generation Rollingstock trains will be on the tracks by the end of the year. On Friday, Ms Trad, also the state's Transport Minister, announced the first train would be accepted, subject to the rectification of 22 remaining issues, which were expected to be fixed in the next few weeks and the trains would not enter passenger service before then.
The 22 issues included air quality control mechanisms for the guard cabin and a converter on one of the brakes, but they were not significant safety concerns, Ms Trad said.
In February, there were more than 480 issues identified with the trains.
Ms Trad said she expected the first NGR train to be used by commuters in November or December, and delivery of more trains from overseas would begin once the 22 issues were fixed.
But disability access issues around the trains' toilets would not be fixed before they were rolled out for passenger use.
The unresolved disability issues involved access for people in wheelchairs in getting to the toilets.
The fleet will include 35 trains for long distance services on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Rosewood lines which will have two toilets and these will be made disability-accessible, while the remaining 40 trains will have no toilets, like QR's existing urban fleet.
The layout of the toilets would be redesigned and the fixed trains were expected to be progressively introduced over the next 18 to 24 months.
Ensuring the trains were disability-accessible would cost about $100 million and fixing screens cost $50 million, although those funds came from a "contingency bucket", Ms Trad said.
However, Inclusion Moves director Geoff Trappett said disability advocates were disappointed by the lack of foresight.
"Simple fact is, it is a half-fix implemented in time for a sporting event," he said.
Disability advocates argued for the guards cab to be installed in the middle of NGR trains, but authorities decided that would require major changes and the costs were extremely high.
But Mr Trappett said people with a disability were already being left behind at stations, despite a guard currently being located near the boarding point at the middle of the platform.
Instead, station staff rather than the guard will provide assistance to customers when boarding.
The NGR trains were crucial to allow smooth public transport for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April 2018, which has been identified as a "stress period" on the QR network.
An independent review by German railway operator Deutsche Bahn, completed in August, argued the 18 NGR trains required for the Commonwealth Games timetable would not be ready in time.
At the time, there were still 140 issues with the NGR trains, including door and brake control.
Ms Trad said QR would make sure as many new, safe trains as possible would be running in time for the Commonwealth Games.
"We need to ensure that they all pass their testing, we're not going to cut corners, we're going to make sure every single unit passes the tests for them to be fully compliant with Queensland Rail engineering standards," she said.
"Queensland Rail is working around the clock to make sure that we've got a comprehensive, integrated public transport plan for the Commonwealth Games that includes these new trains, but also includes service changes and they will be made clear well in advance of the Commonwealth Games."
QR chief executive Nick Easy said the operator was creating a timetable for the Commonwealth Games, which he said would reflect the number of trains available.
But he would not be drawn on whether some lines would have reduced services during the Games.
"We will be increasing heavy rail service delivery between Brisbane and the Gold Coast and the mix of services on other lines will be reflected in the complete integrated timetable, so that is something that we're still working on and that will be announced well ahead of the Games," Mr Easy said.
This article first appeared on www.watoday.com.au
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