Former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman. Picture: AAP Image/Darren England
Former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman. Picture: AAP Image/Darren England

Newman: ‘My rail plan would have halved fares’

FORMER Premier Campbell Newman says train fares could have been halved under the LNP's original driver-operator-only design for the troubled $4.4 billion new commuter train rollout.

The ex-Liberal National Party leader has defended his administration's decision to order trains that scrapped train guards, saying it was on advice that guards actually "do not do anything".

He said a planned inquiry into the New Generation Rollingstock fiasco, which has bipartisan support, would reveal the Palaszczuk Government wasted taxpayer funds in cowering to union demands in 2015 for guards to be allocated a "workstation" in the last train carriage.

It was one of the first deals after Labor's shock LNP defeat and cost about $50,000 to retrofit each train with CCTV so that guards, whose base pay is $92,315, could monitor the curved train platforms to look out for people who need help boarding and give the all-clear.

But guards could no longer fulfil one of their chief duties of helping disabled people board NGR trains under the change, because the rear cab is too far from the special-needs boarding point mid-platform. Station platform staff have taken over the boarding task on NGR trains.

Mr Newman said his government had advice train fares could be halved by getting rid of guards.

"I would be absolutely certain that the inquiry, if it's done properly and independently, will show that people in southeast Queensland could have had a lower-cost operation that could have led to lower fares, if train guards had been removed," Mr Newman said.

"Those trains were purchased on the basis of having no guard," he said. "The reason is the guards do not do anything.

Former Queensland premier Campbell Newman. Picture: AAP Image/Darren England
Former Queensland premier Campbell Newman. Picture: AAP Image/Darren England

"It's the year 2018. You go to international cities. They don't even have train drivers.

"The train guard doesn't guard you. If there's a problem on the train it's the rail police who are the ones to come to your assistance. It's, frankly, a job that the union have won for their members".

Mr Newman has previously said the entire $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project could have been avoided by the introduction of driverless trains, such as those to be used on Sydney's new Northwest Metro line. Writing for The Courier-Mail's Future Brisbane series late last year, he said a move to modern control systems and driverless trains would dramatically improve the frequency of services on southeast Queensland's existing network.

A Rail Tram & Bus Union circular in 2015 said it had a "firm commitment" from Deputy Premier Jackie Trad that guards would remain on the trains. Ms Trad did not comment. Transport Minister Mark Bailey said the LNP "botched the NGR contract" when it got rid of the guard's cab in the middle of the train and "ordered half-price non-disability complaint trains, sending hundreds of jobs overseas".

QR chief executive Nick Easy said guard tasks including communicating information about connecting train services and responding to critical incidents and emergencies.