Queensland’s $988 million Moreton Bay Rail Link (MBRL) Project has been postponed pending an investigation, after issues with the signalling system were discovered.
Queensland Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games, Stirling Hinchliffe, said he received a brief from Queensland Rail about outstanding problems with the signalling system and has decided the rail line will not be commissioned until it has been assessed and confirmed to be safe.
“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,” Mr Hinchliffe said.
“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.”
Mr Hinchliffe said the rail link will not be open by mid-2016 but an investigator will be appointed to undertake an independent audit into the project to look at how the signalling system was selected and the costs associated with it.
“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,” Mr Hinchliffe said.
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 2016.
Since this point Queensland Rail has been given access to undertake comprehensive operational testing which has been ongoing for months across all aspects of the system, including signalling.
This testing 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 that the signalling is not adequate to service a junction as critical as Petrie.
Mr Hinchliffe said the main safety issues from Queensland Rail’s investigation is the increased risk of ‘signals passed at danger’, which 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.
“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,” Mr Hinchliffe said.
Mr Hinchliffe also said Queensland Rail has now been made responsible for commissioning of the project including finalising the commercial and technical arrangements required to get the signalling system up to standard, online and tested.
“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,” Mr Hinchliffe said.