Statement on Moreton Bay Rail Link Project

Published Monday, 30 May, 2016 at 01:45 PM

Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games
The Honourable Stirling Hinchliffe

Transcript (E&OE)

Earlier this morning I received a brief from Queensland Rail about outstanding issues with the signalling system for the jointly funded $988 million Moreton Bay Rail Link (MBRL) Project and this advice has also now been shared with my federal and council funding partners.

Based on this advice, I have serious concerns about the signalling system and whether the timeframe for delivery of MBRL can be met by mid-year.

I want to be clear from the outset, the Queensland Government’s priority in delivering Moreton Bay Rail Link is to ensure residents receive safe high quality infrastructure and service reliability from day one when the rail line opens.

Given the significance of this project and today’s advice I’ve made the following decision – 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.

I am advised that this means the rail line will not be open by mid-2016.

I am an extremely disappointed that this timeframe will not be met, but my priority has to be the safety of the travelling public and integrity of the entire South East Queensland rail network.

This is not an easy decision, but it reflects the seriousness of the advice and problems identified through the testing phase.

To determine what’s gone wrong, I will be appointing an investigator to undertake an independent audit into the project – 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.”

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.

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.

For background, the former Newman Government brought delivery of this project under a single entity and since 2012 the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads has been the Principal for the contract and charged with delivery of the project.

Queensland Rail has served in an advisory role and participated in operational readiness exercises since the MBRL line was electrified at the start of the year. Since this point they have been given access to undertake comprehensive operational testing which has been ongoing for months across all aspects of the system, including signalling.

As you would appreciate rail signals are the traffic light system of the network, they are critical to the safety and running of trains and the integrity of our rail system.

This testing has determined that the signalling system currently installed for MBRL does not meet the operational and safety standards found across the rest of the network.

Queensland Rail’s position is 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’, this is like running a red light. The operation of these signals is critical to safety and I never want to see a rail accident caused because we allowed a signalling system that didn’t pass muster to operate. Some of the other safety issues identified by Queensland Rail include lack of sufficient stopping distance and increased confusion for train controllers. 

Advice that I have received is that the problems with the signalling system will also contribute to major impacts to on-time running that would spread across the entire network and delay trains for tens of thousands of commuters in South East Queensland each day. That means, if we open the line as it is, with the signalling system in its current state, the entire South East Queensland network would effectively catch a cold that would spread around the network leading to delays.

The advice from Queensland Rail is very clear, due to the status of the signal testing to date they do not have confidence the rail line can safely be commissioned until the problems are resolved.

On the current assessment the signalling procured under the former Government will not allow for more than three trains to pass through Petrie Station without the system failing. 

That is simply not acceptable and it is why I have ordered an investigation.

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.

I have told Queensland Rail to work to the timeline of safety and I will update you further when this work is completed. 

The full implications of today’s announcement will be felt by commuters who were looking forward to the opening of the MBRL line.

They’ve been waiting more than 100 years and it is a further blow that the signalling system installed has not passed muster and will delay this project further. 

As Minister and as a public transport user, I was really looking forward to this project opening to benefit the people of the Moreton Bay region. I am disappointed that this has played out the way it has, leaving the Government with only one option. 

I want to reassure Queenslanders that the Government will do everything in its power to deliver the project as soon as we can and ensure it will be at the highest standards of safety and quality.

I share commuters’ disappointment and frankly, anger, that this project has had this set back.

As I have outlined, I have acted swiftly to get to the bottom of this issue when it was clear to me it was more than just the regular teething problems of any major project.

I need to be absolutely clear here. Safety must come first.

So if it means asking for someone to investigate the Department’s delivery of this project, and wearing political heat, then so be it. Safety is more important than politics.

It is also very important to be open and transparent about the concerns in relation to this project, because we want other governments and business to continue to invest in critical infrastructure in Queensland.

This investigation will be transparent and I will confirm details in the coming days about who I will entrust with this task.

I will now invite the Attorney-General and State Member for Redcliffe Yvette D’Ath to say a few words and then I will take questions.  



Media Contact:         Jessica Hill 0475 950 772