Glenbrook Rail Accident Inquiry Report
Mr MOSS: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Transport. Will the Minister outline the role of the Co-ordinator General of Rail in implementing the recommendations of the second interim report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Glenbrook Rail Accident?
Mr SCULLY: It is nearly a year since the Glenbrook tragedy occurred. We all remember the circumstances of this terrible accident that took the lives of seven people on 2 December 1999. The police emergency services and rail staff put in a magnificent effort in difficult circumstances and deserve to be applauded. I support the remarks made by the Premier and express my condolences to the families of the victims. As the Premier has indicated, the Government acted quickly to set up a full, open and independent inquiry on the day of the accident. The initial terms of reference included a request that Justice McInerney consider, first, the causes of the accident and the factors that contributed to it and, second, the adequacy of the risk management procedures applicable to the circumstances of the railway accident. The Government subsequently broadened those terms of reference to include any safety improvements to rail operations including relevant structural changes which he considers necessary as a result of his findings under the first and second considerations and as a result of consideration of the reports of the rail safety investigations and any coronial report into a number of railway accidents.
I thank Justice McInerney for the thoroughness of his efforts on behalf of the people of New South Wales. The first phase of the inquiry considered the direct causes of the accident. The first phase produced more than 11,000 pages of reports on risk management procedures for the rail agencies here and overseas. Evidence was heard from 96 witnesses and 92 exhibits were received. On 6 June Justice McInerney provided to the Governor his interim report on the direct causes of the Glenbrook accident. It contained eight recommendations for safety improvements. All were adopted by the Government and are being acted upon by the rail agencies. Honourable members will recall that the Government appointed Mr Ron Christie to improve the overall performance of the railways and ensure that the rail agencies work together more closely. The Government also asked Mr Christie to oversee the implementation of the Glenbrook recommendations.
Following the completion of the first phase of the inquiry, Justice McInerney began to review broader issues of safety and industry structure. The Government agreed to his request to investigate railway operations overseas. The inquiry conducted extensive investigations into rail safety and risk management systems in Great Britain, France, Norway, The Netherlands, Germany and Canada. Hearings were held in October to hear the evidence of Mr Christie, union officials and rail experts. Today, the Government has received a second interim report with a further 15 recommendations. They deal with the structure of the rail industry. Many reflect the evidence of the Co-ordinator General of Rail, Ron Christie, before the inquiry of last month.
The Premier indicated the Government's response to the recommendations. The implementation will be co-ordinated by Mr Christie. As recommended in the interim report, the Government will move swiftly to formally establish the Office of the Co-ordinator General of Rail. He will be empowered to examine and assess the ramifications of any structural changes of the New South Wales railways. He will be empowered also to manage those changes so that the level of safety is not reduced and will ensure that customer service is a key focus.
Further, he will oversee the transfer of network control to the State Rail Authority for the CityRail network as recommended by Justice McInerney. That will be done in consultation with management, staff, unions and other relevant stakeholders. The co-ordinator general will also manage the merging of the Rail Access Corporation and Rail Services Australia. The Government notes Justice McInerney's observations regarding the need for the portfolio Minister to be given sufficient powers to direct this proposed agency. The new agency will be a modified State-owned corporation with special provisions that make it clear that the portfolio Minister can direct its activities. That will ensure a greater degree of accountability to the Minister with the key objective of delivering a safe and reliable passenger and freight service in a financially responsible way.
Passenger services will continue to be given priority. It will be clear to both agencies that they share common objectives to act in the best interests of the whole rail network. As Justice McInerney noted in his interim report, there will need to be a transitional period to put the new arrangements in place. The first step will be to introduce appropriate legislation during this session. I assure the House that the Government intends to act promptly. The McInerney inquiry will now move to its final stage to consider rail safety generally. The inquiry will consider further evidence and the Government will await the final report due on 31 December. As the Premier noted, legislation covering safety issues will be considered by the Government following the final report. We accept Justice McInerney's recommendations that we await his final report on these matters.
[Questions without notice interrupted.]