Rail fail solution ready for rollout
A MULTIMILLION-dollar fix to the state's bungled new trains order is expected to be outlined today as Queenslanders find how design flaws breaching disability access laws came about.
The State Government has been examining options to fix the $4.4 billion New Generation Rollingstock project flaws since September 2017 when the problems were revealed.
It then announced plans to solve the crisis by removing toilets from 40 NGR passenger trains and adding a second toilet to the remaining 35 trains on long distance services.
But The Courier-Mail can reveal an option put for forward by the disability sector to add a second toilet to all 75 NGR trains has since been under Government consideration.
It is yet to reveal the total cost of fixing the trains, which was first estimated at $150 million.
A report to be released today by the Commission of Inquiry into the NGR issues will reveal how an attempt to save money by slashing the number of toilets on board the trains in 2012 backfired by contributing to the disability access failings.
As revealed by The Courier-Mail last week, a briefing paper seen by the newspaper shows plans to change the design to six-car trains with just one toilet was under discussion by Queensland Rail as early as April 2012.
It was one less toilet than previously planned and meant one of the adjoining two carriages with designated seating for disabled people did not have a toilet.
And QR was aware the aisle linking the two carriages breached the Disability Discrimination Act as it was too narrow for people in wheelchairs, meaning that unlike other passengers, disabled people who boarded the wrong carriage could not reach the toilet.
But the design was put to the former LNP administration in 2012, under then Transport Department director-general Michael Caltabiano, and later adopted in the 2013 contract between the Government and the consortium led by train builder Bombardier.
Commissioner Michael Forde has criticised a "failure for genuine consultation with the disability groups" and told The Courier-Mail "both sides agreed to sign a contract that had terms which were non-compliant with the disability legislation."
Disability advocate Geoff Trappett said the sector only stumbled on the issues more than three and a half years after first flagged internally at QR. QR has refused to comment.
Mr Trappett, who was on the accessibility reference group, said no mention was made of the removal of the second toilet when it was initially shown a carriage mock-up in January 2016.
The mock-up then shown to the group featured a toilet.