The bungled rollout of Queensland’s newest fleet of trains, which have been plagued by defects and disability access issues, will be probed by a government inquiry.
The New Generation Rollingstock trains were delivered more than 18 months late from an Indian builder, and required more than $150 million of extra funds to modify major defects to ensure they worked properly.
Hundreds of problems needed to be rectified across at least 35 trains, including braking, air-conditioning, ventilation and sightlines for train drivers.
The $4.4 billion trains also failed disability access tests, with the Human Rights Commission refusing the government an exemption from disability compliance laws.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Monday evening that retired District Court Judge Michael Forde would conduct an inquiry into the procurement of the trains, and their failure to comply with disability laws.
“Mr Forde will be able to access relevant documents in the procurement process, including technical specifications, design approvals and cabinet documents,” Ms Palaszczuk said in a statement.
The full terms of reference were yet to be decided.
The Newman government ordered the trains from the Bombardier-led consortium called Qtectic in January 2014, saying at the time they were coming in at half the price the previous government paid for Rollingstock.
The delivery of 75 trains was expected by the end of 2016, but on-track testing uncovered significant problems, and the rollout was halted in March 2017.
Since then, more than 35 of the trains have been delivered, with the first service between the Gold Coast and Brisbane Airport run at the end of 2017.
There are currently 19 NGR trains in passenger service on the Gold Coast, Airport, Doomben and also running up to Northgate.
The Premier said the inquiry was approved on Monday morning by cabinet and will commence in August, with a report to be submitted to the government with recommendations late this year.
Mr Forde previously led an inquiry into Queensland’s tow truck industry, which recommended a capped fee for private parking removals.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Bombardier maintained its original position that the NGR trains were built to the specifications provided at the time.
“The trains were designed in Queensland by a very dedicated team of industry professionals, and they’ve been built especially for Queensland commuters,” the spokesperson said.
“We look forward to the terms of reference becoming available.”
A commuter who uses a wheelchair and filed a complaint to the Human Rights Commission about the trains’ non-compliance welcomed the announcement.
“I’m delighted. I’m cautious, watching on with curiosity,” Wendy Lovelace told the ABC.
“The devil’s in the detail of the terms of reference and we just have to see what that involves.”