Thursday, March 29, 2018

AHRC - NGR Trains are Illegal

An "illegal" QR NGR train
After many weeks and months of haggling between various interested parties, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has handed down the final verdict on Queensland Rail's New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains.

Exempted until Oct 2020:
  • Availability of a manual assisted boarding device (ramp) at any accessible entrance.
Not exempted:
  • Width of access path adjacent to the unisex accessible toilet module in the MB car.
  • Width of access path adjacent to an allocated space in the accessible cars.
  • Access path is only available at a single door.
  • Extent of access path from the entrance of the single assisted boarding door to all allocated spaces and priority seats in the accessible cars.
  • Extent of access path from the entrance of the single assisted boarding door to the unisex accessible toilet module.
  • Availability of unisex accessible toilet to passengers using wheelchairs and mobility aids.
  • Ability for passengers in wheelchairs or mobility aids to enter, position their aids and exit the toilet module.
  • Dimension from the centre line of the pan to the far-side wall (of toilet). 
Quite clearly, this is a major embarrassment for the Queensland Government, and timing just ahead of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (itself likely to be a transport nightmare) cannot be worse. 

Both sides of politics need to be blamed for the mess. The NGR trains were ordered under the destructive LNP Newman government, by the Department of Transport and Main Roads. They were ordered non-complaint with Disability Access legislation, as well as being designed without a guard location which had to be added at a later stage. It is rumoured that the NGR's were to be used under a stealth rail privatisation plan, which ended when the Newman government unexpectedly (to them) lost power. The ALP Palaszczuk government has had its head in the sand in respect to solving the problem, hoping that spin and bluster could somehow get them out of the hole dug by the previous government. 

There is no question that a Commission of Inquiry must be held to get to the bottom of the disaster that is the NGR project. It also needs to be questioned as to why Department of Transport and Main Roads are still running this project, and also that public transport governance in SE Queensland needs a serious overhaul. The implications of the NGR design failures may even result in Cross River Rail opening with insufficient trains

The big question is whether the ruling means that NGR trains will be withdrawn from service, possibly even before the Commonwealth Games? The AHRC cannot force the NGRs to be removed from services. However, it may be theoretically possible for someone launch a High Court injunction to stop the non-compliant trains from running. BrizCommuter thinks it would be very unlikely for this to occur, as it would further embarrass Queensland and Australia ahead of the largest sporting event in Australia for a decade. Unlikely, but still possible. 

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