V/Line, Metro Trains take action following inquiry: reaffirms need for integrity

The V/Line board has taken action to underline the unacceptable nature of the evidence heard at the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) inquiry this week.

In a statement from the V/Line chair Gabrielle Bell, the regional operator announced it had terminated the employment of former CEO James Pinder, who has been the subject of the first days of the IBAC hearings as part of Operation Esperance.

“Following the public hearings of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) this week as part of Operation Esperance, the V/Line Board of Directors has terminated the employment of James Pinder from his position as CEO, effective today,” said Bell.

V/line will also no longer work with the cleaning company at the centre of the hearings.

“The V/Line Board has also provided notice of termination of the contract with cleaning supplier Transclean Facilities Pty Ltd. V/Line will work to support the front-line cleaning staff who may be affected by this decision,” said Bell.

Late on Thursday evening, Metro Trains Melbourne CEO Raymond O’Flaherty also issued a statement. O’Flaherty said that Metro would not tolerate behaviour described in the hearings.

“Metro has zero tolerance for any behaviours or actions that compromise our commitment to safety and integrity across our organisation,” said O’Flaherty.

“I take the evidence presented at the IBAC Operation Esperance public hearings very seriously. “

Pinder, along with Metro Trains Melbourne fleet manager Peter Bollas, are alleged to have received cash payments of $8,000 and $10,000 from Transclean managing director George Haritos.

Metro has also terminated Bollas’s employment and O’Flaherty announced that the operator is appointing an independent auditor to review procurement and probity processes. O’Flaherty noted that the operator is already in the tender process for selecting a new cleaning contractor.

Bell reiterated that the alleged behaviour had no place within V/Line.

“The alleged conduct of both Mr Pinder and Transclean is not acceptable to V/Line under any circumstances,” said Bell.

“All V/Line employees and contractors are expected to uphold the highest levels of integrity and the Board of Directors is committed to ensuring this happens at all times.”

Pinder has been replaced since August by acting CEO Gary Liddle. Bell said Liddle would continue until further notice.

“V/Line has fully cooperated with the IBAC investigation and will continue to do so,” said Bell.


V/Line appoints acting CEO

V/Line has appointed Gary Liddle as acting CEO of V/Line.

Liddle will take over from Nick Foa, who stepped into the role after former CEO James Pinder was sacked.

Pinder was removed by Victorian Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll after Carroll was advised that the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) had launched an investigation.

Melbourne rail operator Metro Trains has stood down rollingstock manager Peter Bollas due to the same investigation.

Separately, V/Line has been taken to court by a cleaning contractor for alleged lack of payment between 2015 and 2018. Statements of claim have been lodged in the Victorian Supreme Court. V/Line said that it had received non-compliant invoices which led to the withholding of payment.

Liddle returns to V/Line having been enterprise professor of transport at the University of Melbourne. Before this role, Liddle was interim CEO of V/Line in 2016 and has also been CEO of VicRoads, and Public Transport Victoria.

V/Line board chair Gabrielle Bell said that Liddle will be a stabilising force within the regional passenger rail operator.

“Liddle returns to our organisation with extensive knowledge of our business, our customers, our challenges, and our opportunities. He will provide the leadership and support V/Line needs at this time.”

Liddle was brought in to V/Line in 2016 as the CEO at another troubled period for the operator. A safety incident in January 2016 saw a V/Line train failing to trigger a boom gate at a level crossing in Dandenong. This led to some services being prohibited from running on the Melbourne suburban network.

Foa will return to his role as head of transport services at the Victorian Department of Transport.