Queensland Rail will recruit 100 more drivers and 100 more guards as a result of significant disruptions to services on October 21, state transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe has announced.
QR boss Helen Gluer apologised to commuters last week after the operator was forced to cancel roughly 100 services on Friday due to a staff shortage, which left it unable to fulfil the new timetable introduced since the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula line (a.k.a. the Moreton Bay Rail Link).
Gluer said at that time QR would look into hiring additional staff. Now Hinchliffe has put some figures on the table.
“In total, QR will be recruiting an extra 200 drivers and an extra 200 guards,” he said. “Of the 100 drivers approved last year, 79 drivers have already been recruited and 74 guards have also been recruited.”
The announcement is a 100-driver and 100-guard increase on previous plans, announced in 2015. QR will begin recruiting the additional staff immediately.
Hinchliffe made the announcement after he briefed Cabinet on Monday morning, having seen a report from QR on Sunday night.
Until more staff are hired, QR will be forced to operate a new weekday timetable which it can meet with its current workforce, which means cutting 30 daily services, a reduction of 2.3%.
New drivers and guards will be trained on the Next Generation Rollingstock – the 75 new Bombardier EMU trainsets being delivered up until late 2018 – with Hinchliffe saying this measure will provide a pipeline of future drivers with route knowledge.
The minister said QR will also work with its employees “to develop more flexible working arrangements, including part-time arrangements – boosting the longevity of the existing workforce and creating driver roster flexibility”.
“The Government and the public have the highest expectations when it comes to the delivery of our core services,” Hinchliffe said.
“On behalf of the Government I also apologise that Queensland Rail hasn’t delivered to the high standards that we set for ourselves.”
Hinchliffe said the state government was given “clear and repeated advice” from QR that it was prepared to deliver extra services as a result of the opening of the Redcliffe Peninsula line.
“It is now clear that this was not achieved.”
After reporting on-time performance rates in August and September of between 95% and 96%, QR said it expects that figure to be just 91% in October.
“This is not acceptable to the Government and more importantly, it’s unacceptable to the travelling public,” Hinchliffe said.
“Queensland Rail and TransLink have a responsibility to the traveling public to deliver the best and highest level of service possible.
“It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that our rail operator has the resources it requires to do the job and our plan today does that.”