A bemused Stirling Hinchliffe has told reporters the planned mid-2016 opening of Queensland’s Moreton Bay Rail Link will be delayed by “significant” signalling issues.
The state transport minister says he’s not happy to hear of the delay, given the government was until this point told the billion-dollar project was on track for completion by mid-year.
He said on Monday that he had been told the project would hit its targeted opening date as recently as this month.
He told reporters he had only been advised of the issues by Queensland Rail on Monday morning, May 30.
“I am extremely disappointed that this timeframe will not be met,” he said.
“The rail line will not be commissioned until Queensland Rail assesses it as entirely safe and fit for our entire peak and non-peak services.
“This is non-negotiable.”
Hinchliffe laid blame on the former Newman Government, who he said had left the Department of Transport and Main Roads in charge of commissioning the project, relegating Queensland Rail to an advisory role.
He put Queensland Rail in charge of the rest of the project’s commission on Monday.
The $988 million project is jointly funded by the Federal Government ($583 million), Queensland Government ($300 million) and Moreton Bay Regional Council ($105 million).
Thiess is listed as the project’s managing contractor and full rail service provider.
“My priority has to be the safety of the travelling public and integrity of the entire South East Queensland rail network,” Hinchliffe continued.
“This is not an easy decision, but it reflects the seriousness of the advice and problems identified through the testing phase.”
The minister said he would appoint an independent audit investigation into the project, including “how the signalling system was selected and the costs associated with it”.
“Let me be clear, the consistent advice the Government has received is that the project was on track to be delivered mid-year.
“In fact the advice as recently as this month was the project would likely open mid-year.
“Further my incoming-minister brief in December last year clearly stated that the MBRL was ‘on track to be delivered by mid-2016.’”
Hinchliffe took the transport role off the hands of deputy premier Jackie Trad, who is also in charge of infrastructure, planning, trade and investment.
“While the advice has been that the project is on track, I was concerned when the scheduled date for closures to undertake critical connection works and signal testing for MBRL was postponed,” Hinchliffe told reporters.
“This was a red flag for me and it’s why I sought separate written briefs from both the Department of Transport and Main Roads and from Queensland Rail.
“I instructed the Department to provide Queensland Rail with all commercial and technical information requested in order to provide me a final assessment of the status of the project. This is the advice Queensland Rail has given me today.”
Queensland Rail has told the minister the “signalling is not adequate to service a junction as critical as Petrie”.
“The main safety issues from Queensland Rail’s investigation is the increased risk of ‘signals passed at danger’,” Hinchliffe explained.
“Some of the other safety issues identified by Queensland Rail include lack of sufficient stopping distance and increased confusion for train controllers.
“From today, Queensland Rail is responsible for the commission of this project.
“The Government is now entrusting them to take the lead in finalising the commercial and technical arrangements required to get the signalling system up to standard, online and tested.”