$350m oversight with this train corridor
A set of brand new Australian commuter trains, lauded at the time for being a cut price bargain, have proved to be anything but with taxpayers now being faced with a bill of almost $350 million to fix the flawed fleet.
That's $4.5 million per train to fix a bureaucratic balls up which has turned into a blame game between Labor and the LNP. The trains won't all be up to scratch for another six years.
Queensland's $4.4 billion so-called "New Generation Rollingstock" (NGR) was botched from the beginning with failings so bad they were technically illegal to operate.
The trains arrived with ailing airconditioning, braking issues and - most damningly - didn't meet the minimum requirements for disabled users; requirements that had been in place for a decade when the trains were ordered.
In one glaring oversight, the gangway between the seats was so narrow, passengers using a wheelchair could not get through the carriage to reach the wheelchair accessible toilet.
Of the 75 trains delivered, just 37 are in service.
A scathing report into the procurement of the trains, given to the State Government last week said serious design flaws were overlooked by middle managers.
Retired judge Michael Forde said last week the state was lumbered with trains that were not fit for use.
"There's no evidence that any of these problems were brought up in any formal way on any of the documents we had whereby the D-Gs (directors-general) were aware of it," Mr Forde told The Courier-Mail.
"There's a suggestion from middle management that they did, but when you look at all the minutes, it's not there. They say it was mentioned at meetings, but given the denials of the directors-general and the documents we have, the problem occurred at middle management level."
He said middle managers did raise other issues with the trains, but not the ones that have left disability advocates fuming.
On Monday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said: "I am pleased the inquiry has provided a thorough examination of this process and we are getting on with the job of fixing what went wrong."
The gangways on the NGR carriages between the fully-accessible seating area and the toilets are too narrow.
Geoff Trappett, a Director at disability policy organisation Inclusion Moves, told news.com.au in March that even if a passenger with a mobility impairment managed to battle their way to the loo, it's also too small to meet legal requirements.
"The bathroom fails to meet the legislated width from the toilet to the side wall meaning a person with a disability might be unable to transfer from a wheelchair on to the seat."
Mr Trappett said the essence of anti-discrimination law was that someone with a disability should have to go to no more effort than someone able bodied to access a service, a yardstick Queensland's new trains failed.
The sorry saga has gone on for so long, it has dragged in two governments and three premiers.
The procurement process for the new trains was begun under the Bligh Labor Government, when current premier Palaszczuk was transport minister. But the order was finalised and signed off by the Campbell Newman led LNP administration in 2014.
The first carriages, built in India by a consortium led by Canadian manufacturer Bombardier, were to be delivered from 2015. But a series of faults and legal issues meant only a handful had entered service by the time of the Commonwealth Games this year.
Bombardier told the inquiry they had warned the then Government the train's were not compliant.
BILL MORE THAN DOUBLED
The bill to fix the trains was said to be around $150m but today the Government revealed that has now more than doubled to $336m.
Larger toilets, 10 per cent bigger than the current design, will be installed across the middle cars of the entire NGR fleet; revised seating layouts will make it easier for people to reach the loo and extra priority seating will be installed, Ms Palaszczuk said.
The work will take place in Maryborough.
Mr Trappett said both parties were at fault and while the LNP signed the contract for the trains the current Labor administration has had plenty of time to deal with it - and had failed to do so.
Last week, 35 loo-less NGR trains were introduced on inner suburban lines increasing capacity by 45,000 seats a day. It will take until 2024 for all the trains to have bigger toilets installed.
- with AAP.