WHO STUFFED UP? CEO's Rattler pitch raises questions
WITH the Rattler's independent review under way, new questions have surfaced over Gympie Regional Council's pitch for State Government money, in which the "need" for steel sleepers was noted and that the heritage train was "close to operational now".
In a February 18, 2017 email from council chief executive Bernard Smith to DILGP Director-General Frankie Carroll obtained through Right to Information, Mr Smith sought to provide clarity on the project and its compliance with the Works for Queensland funding guidelines, including advising Mr Carroll that the heritage train was not far from returning.
"It also needs to be noted that the railway operated in 2012 so whilst infrastructure needs work much of it is close to operational now," Mr Smith said.
The condition of the rolling stock was also said to be favourable in the email.
"The rolling stock was operational in 2012 and not the cause of the cessation but will be improved, a boiler was removed this week to allow better inspection and it was in better condition than thought, and a local engineering firm is assisting so no problems are foreseen," he said.
"Extensive investigations have been undertaken regarding the track and bridges, all bridges were serviceable in 2012 but will be worked on where needed."
Mr Smith also addressed the cause of the initial blow-out from $2.6 million to $10.8 million, which had been previously noted by the State Government.
"The reason the capital spend increased some time ago was the correct view of DSD that the track is the main ongoing liability and steel or concrete sleepers need to be used to significantly reduce future maintenance costs," he said.
CR Rail's winning tender included a one-in-three sleeper replacement schedule using timber, while the need for a new boiler was identified by the council in early March 2017.
Since the W4Q funding was secured, the cost of the Rattler's return has boiled over from $10.8 million to $17.5 million and at present there is no official return date for the Mary Valley Rattler.
THE Gympie Times asked council chief executive Bernard Smith for comment on the email and a council spokeswoman provided the following response:
"The information in the email to the State Government in 2017 was based on the information known to council at the time.
"As further inspections were carried out and work continued, a higher level of detail was understood and the government was updated on the project and associated funding. The claim that council has been misleading is incorrect and unfair.
"Alterations including budget and time frames required due diligence and, once confirmed, the details and amendments to the project were taken to council ordinary meetings for discussion and endorsement (including the use of timber sleepers).
"Information on budget increases and time frames were then released to the public and media the same day. Although council acknowledges major projects, especially restorative projects such as the Rattler Railway, can see unforeseen challenges that may require further funding or delays, council did not want or expect to see the degree of increased budget or delays for the delivery of the project and is disappointed and frustrated at the ongoing increased costs and delayed launch.
"The independent, third-party review into the project (currently under way) is to determine the factors leading to the increased budget requirements and what improvements can be made to future project management practices."
Asked about whether Mr Smith believed the initial State Government business case reports were flawed, the spokeswoman said: "Gympie Region Council has called into question the quality of the information before it at the time, the project review process and the review of the specification currently under way will include these issues as part of the report."