One of Queensland Rail’s New Generation Rollingstock units
One of Queensland Rail’s New Generation Rollingstock units

Queensland's next-generation ‘ghost trains’

ALMOST half of all new trains shipped to Queensland under the state's New Generation Rollingstock project are yet to move a single passenger as they await final clearance.

Forty-two of the 75 new trains ordered by the State Government in 2013 have arrived, but only 22 have entered passenger service as they await final approval by Queensland Rail.

While the new trains gather dust, QR's 30-year-old fleet is being pushed past retirement age, triggering reliability fears by commuter advocates after a series of service delays last month.

Project sources say some of NGR trains awaiting QR's approval have already passed testing.

The trains are being stored at Wulkuraka and Redbank Plains, despite QR in September saying the trains were urgently needed "to replace an ageing portion" of its existing fleet.

QR did not respond to questions, but TransLink said "stringent operational testing" takes about three months, including cleaning, static and on-track testing and a trial journey.

A spokesman said an average two to three trains a month had started service since December.

That was when the first train hit the tracks - about 18 months after first planned.

Taxpayers are also funding $100 million in design modifications after the Government acknowledged in September that the NGR train design breached disability access laws.

Transport Minister Mark Bailey in Budget estimates recently
Transport Minister Mark Bailey in Budget estimates recently

Canadian train builder Bombardier has previously stated that the trains "have been manufactured to the specifications as set out contractually by the Queensland Government".

It declined to comment on any QR delays in approving the trains for contractual reasons.

News Queensland reported in February that Bombardier had made a claim for more than $100 million in liquidated damages over contractual delays it blamed on the State Government.

Transport sources at the time said the claim involved accusations QR had caused hold-ups in commissioning the trains over minor issues, such as a misplaced sticker.

Transport Minister Mark Bailey late last month replied to a Question on Notice about the project to say that "no successful liquidated damages claims have been made" against the Government in 2016-17 and 2017-18.

A commission of inquiry into the project is in progress.

The inquiry will be run by retired District Court Judge Michael Forde and will examine how trains came to be ordered that breached disability legislation and "functional requirements".