Former Rio Tinto executive Phillip Strachan will be the new chairman of Queensland Rail, after his review of the business recommended significant changes as a result of severe service interruptions late last year.
Queensland Rail was forced to cancel a swathe of passenger services last year due to a short-staffing crisis, which led to the resignation of its chairman and chief executive officer, among others.
Frustrated transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe ordered Strachan to lead an inquiry into the mess, which was released this week with 36 recommendations for change at Queensland Rail.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on February 6 said State Cabinet had endorsed all 36 recommendations of the 300-page document, and named Strachan as the next chairman of QR.
Strachan worked at Rio Tinto for 35 years, and was at one point the chief executive of its bauxite and alumina global business unit.
His report found a range of staffing factors had led to the driver shortage last year.
Strachan noted QR had a preference to operate with a 5-10% undersupply of train crews, resulting in an over-reliance on overtime.
Union-influenced restrictions on the external recruitment of crew, a 12-month halt of driver training between February 2014 and 2015, and an 18-month average driver training period were also identified as key factors.
Palaszczuk thanked Strachan for leading the inquiry.
“Phillip Strachan has undertaken a comprehensive review of Queensland Rail, interviewing senior staff of the organisation and gaining a thorough understanding of its culture and practices,” she said.
“He has made wide-ranging recommendations to ensure QR has sufficient drivers and a reliable pipeline of training to deliver the services that Queenslanders will need into the future.
“Phillip Strachan is uniquely placed to lead the organisation through what will be a significant transition to focus on its customers – the travelling public.”
Strachan’s first task will be to find a new chief executive officer, who will report to him.
Meanwhile, the report was also followed by the resignation of Stirling Hinchliffe as minister for transport and the Commonwealth Games.
“The issues at Queensland Rail have been some of the most challenging and, at times, frustrating issues I have needed to manage as a minister,” he said.
“The findings of Mr Strachan demonstrate that no Minister or Government could have foreseen driver shortage issue due the Queensland Rail mismanagement.
“I’m pleased that following a rough slog we have been able to begin to turn this issue around and today marks a line in the sand on the matter.”