Engineering, Passenger Rail, Rail Supply

NGR procurement hamstrung by bureaucracy: Forde

Successive governments made the procurement of Queensland’s New Generation Rollingstock trains “too long” and “too disrupted”, and issues were not properly communicated within government departments, the man in charge of the state’s investigation has said.

Retired District Court judge Michael Forde presented his final report into the procurement of NGRs to the premier and minister for trade on Monday, December 3, having commenced a formal inquiry in August.

“The procurement process, in this case, was a disrupted one,” Forde told ABC Brisbane ahead of the report being made public in coming days.

“It was disrupted because of the length of time it took,” he continued. “It started in 2008, and first delivery of the rollingstock was in 2017.

“We had changes of government. We had changes to the structure of the scope of the work. We had changes to the nature of the relationship between the contracting parties, from an ordinary tender to a public private partnership, which has its own complications.

“And we had changes from who was running it – Queensland Rail, through to Projects Queensland, a Treasury group, and then Transport and Main Roads for the final aspects of it, and who are looking after the rectifications.

“So you had all those different permutations that amounted to what I would describe as a disrupted process.”

Forde also said there was a “lack of leadership at certain levels of those responsible for the project,” and said there was clearly tension between the various government departments involved in the $4.4 billion procurement, creating communication problems.

“By virtue of the change from Queensland Rail, to Projects Queensland, to TMR, it didn’t exactly make for a harmonious, cooperative relationship between the various entities,” he said.

“That contributed to some extent, [and] there was a failure to escalate the problems to higher levels of government.

“In house reports by independent people pointing out problems … were not necessarily completely acted upon.”

Bombardier attempted to comply with contract

The trains are being delivered by the consortium Qtectic, which includes manufacturer Bombardier Transportation. They are being modified by Downer in Maryborough to ensure toilet and passageway layouts comply with the latest accessibility standards.

While Bombardier has been the focus of a significant amount of media attention over the NGR issues, Forde said the manufacturer attempted to comply with the terms of its contract, but the length of time and number of departments involved in the project meant design issues were not properly managed or communicated by the state.

“Bombardier were attempting to comply with the contract they signed,” he said.

Forde’s statement confirms comments by Bombardier Transportation Australia boss Paul Brown, who told Rail Express earlier this year the manufacturer had delivered the trains defined by its contract.

“As we’ve always maintained there was a specification to build those trains, and Bombardier has delivered those trains within accordance with the contract,” Brown told Rail Express in its AusRAIL edition.

“Despite the noise, the NGRs are delivering – and will continue to deliver – excellent services around the South East Queensland network. They’ve been absolutely fantastic.”