Thursday, April 6, 2017

NGR - RTI Access Denied

It is a mirage, or a real NGR?
BrizCommuter recently reported on the heavy delays to the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) project. Rather than being managed by rail operator Queensland Rail, this disastrous project is being managed by the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR). TMR were also behind the significant delays to the Moreton Bay Rail Link due to signalling incompatibilities. The Director-General of TMR is none other than Neil Scales, who has recently been Acting CEO of QR, during which he has overseen the debacles of the inadequate School Summer Holiday Timetable, the Xmas Day cancellation-fest, and the planning of the disgraceful Easter Holiday Timetable. Mr Scales was also reportedly involved with $116m spent on an aborted tram scheme in Liverpool, UK. Concerned?

With all of the alleged NGR project issues, it is no surprise that multiple parties have made Right to Information (RTI) requests to the Queensland Government to access project information. In a continuation of the non-existent transparency that Queenslanders are sadly used to - all RTI requests about the NGR project have been either denied, withdrawn, or the decision being delayed as long as possible. Not a single RTI request related to the NGR project has been disclosed to the public. For example:

15 February 2017
Correspondence between Queensland Rail CEO Helen Gluer and Director-General Neil Scales regarding the New Generation Rollingstock Project from 1 January 2015 and 31 December 2016.
Currently being processed - i.e. no decision

30 January 2017
Documents relating to:
1. Agreed project milestones for the New Generation Passenger Rollingstock (NGR) Project.
2. Copies of any annual performance reviews of the NGR project.
3. Reports/briefing papers/minutes of NGR project monitoring committee meetings.
Time period/date range for request: 1 January 2015 - 30 January 2017.
Application refused

28 December 2016
- abatements involving Queensland Rail re Citytrain services
- a copy of the letter attached to an email to Neil Scales on October 21 labelled as ""
- documents discussing issues relating to Moreton Bay Rail Link signalling and the New Generation Rollingstock project
- documents relating to disputes in relation to the New Generation Rollingstock project.
Application withdrawn

1 November 2016
Briefing notes and correspondence regarding the commissioning of New Generation Rollingstock including risks, variances, crew requirements. Time period / date range for request: February 2015 - October 2016.
Application withdrawn

1 November 2016
All documents relating to any discussions, briefings, meetings between the Minister for Transport and a)Translink, b) Queensland Rail representatives and c) Queensland Rail board members that relate to
1. train driver capacity for the South East network over the year 2016 with particular reference to the impact of the opening of the Redcliffe line;
2. overtime for QR drivers;
3. possible train driver shortages;
4. the NGR trains - capabilities, timing in terms of being ready for passengers and/or and changes to those timings; and
5. the NGR trains and any concerns and or issues relating to design, braking systems, safety requirements.
Time period/date range for request: 1 January 2016 - 1 November 2016. (This application was made to the Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games)  
Application withdrawn

1 November 2016
Departmental and Ministerial Briefing Notes and attachments, reports, emails and internal correspondence to and from Queensland Rail, relating to:
1. New Generation Rollingstock (NGR);
2. QR driver recruitment.
Timeframe: 01/01/2015 to 01/11/2016.  
Currently being processed - i.e. no decision made

31 October 2016
All documents related to, but not limited to, correspondence between Minister Stirling Hinchliffe and other parties regarding the New Generation Rollingstock. Time period/date range for request: 1 August 2016 - 31 October 2016.
(This application was made to the Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games)
Application refused

Would Mr Scales like to explain exactly what the Department of Transport and Main Roads is trying to hide?

TMR's RTI (lack of) disclosure log:


  1. I think you misunderstand this area:

    The Queensland Government is committed to giving the community greater access to information. The Right to Information reforms strengthen the community’s right to access government-held information, unless, on balance, releasing the information would be contrary to the public interest.

    Specifically these laws:
    - make more information held by the Government available
    - provide equal access to it across all sectors of the community
    - provide appropriate protection for individuals' privacy.

    Stop laughing - these are copy-and-paste from government sites.

    Based on these official and legal positions there is only one reason why the information is blocked: the information would irreversibly impact individuals' privacy (ministers, heads of departments, and so on). We can not just let them be shamed for their incompetence even if doing so is overwhelmingly in the public interest.

    If I were the applicant I would be appealing these rejections because I seriously doubt that the public's "right to information" could possibly be refused on the information being against "public interest". No matter what happens, the truth will come out and it would be helpful if it came out now.

  2. Was Scales a LNP appointee or brought in by the ALP?

  3. Joined Translink just prior to LNP election but moved to TMR in 2013.

  4. 135/04793 (15th Feb) has been released. Redacted heavily, but there are some interesting points. Firstly, Neil Scales had more than one email address, leading to clear confusion and emails being CC'ed and forwarded to the two addresses.

    More interestingly, MsHelen Gluer abdicated (or attempted to abdicate) attendance (membership) of the NGR Program Steering Committee (PSC).

    To be clear, Helen Gluer (CEO at the time), was not going to take part in the NGR steering committee (perhaps the biggest QR project), instead assigning Liam Gordon (Executive General Manager, Projects) as proxy. Niel Scales (Directer General Transport and Main Roads) asked for Ms Gluer to confirm twice, once by email (9/8/2016) stating: "By nominating Liam to formally act as proxy for your role on the committee, could you please confirm you agree to Liam having full authority as CEO of QR at all future committee meetings." and again more formally on 13/8/2016 (on official letterhead) with hand writing by Niel Scales saying: "P.S. This should sort it!"

    I don't know whether the P.S. was trying to highlight the significance of the proxy, or perhaps stating that the issue is sorted on Ms Gluer's agreement. Having an Executive General Manager with "full CEO authority during the meeting" sounds peculiar and the ramifications could be quite unique and very significant.

    That's an answer I would like to know, but the response is not to be found. The result of that answer is fairly significant implications given the NGR situation. In fact, it would raise a lot of questions. It would be in the public interest to know who acted as CEO in relation to the NGR steering committee. Did Mr Liam Gordon know and agree to receive full authority as Chief Executive Officer of Queensland Rail at all PSC meetings? It may well have been given to him without his knowledge based on the correspondence. Perhaps this never happened, which then leads to the question as to why the CEO of QR would not participate in the direction and control of probably the largest project in QR?

    This is very peculiar, and more so that there was no response in the RTI document.

  5. Right to information document 135/04596 (10th November 2016) current policy of Driver and Guard Recruitment. In short, they are recruiting from Guards - that then need to be back-filled - and then internally before going external. They are also hiring the Guards internally first. They haven't gone external because they are filling up all their training courses.

    They are suffering "crew" shortages, and moving drivers to guards exacerbates the Guard shortage issue. Given this was government knowledge back then... why was the Minister Ms Trad surprised that this formally agreed approach was being taken?


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