STOP WORK: Southern Downs MP James Lister  asks about the future of rail upgrades .
STOP WORK: Southern Downs MP James Lister asks about the future of rail upgrades . Matthew Purcell

MP slams 'indefensible' rail situation

SLEEPERS intended for line repairs between Warwick and Wallangarra continue to litter the landscape.

Maintenance has been on standby for months, with Queensland Rail CEO Nick Easy telling the Border Post in November last year that restarting of work was imminent.

Fast-forward nearly five months and rail sleepers still lie in piles across the region.

Southern Downs MP James Lister has slammed the CEO and Queensland's Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Mark Bailey, for an "indefensible" scenario.

"I put a question on notice to parliament, which they're supposed to answer truthfully; they took every second of the 28 days they've got.

"I would have thought the minister, rather than defending or obfuscating, would be saying to himself, 'What's going on here? I'm responsible for this department'."

Mr Easy had previously put the delay down to a matter of priority.

"Inspections of the central line from Emerald to Clermont and Emerald to Drummond identified sleepers in these areas were deteriorating more rapidly," he said.

"Work will recommence next week between Warwick and Wallangarra, with approximately 1000 sleepers expected to be replaced," he said in early November 2017.

That reported sleeper figure is far below the number touted by Minister Bailey.

Responding to Mr Lister's question on notice, Minister Bailey estimated 39,000 more sleepers than Mr Easy had.

"The project to replace 40,198 sleepers on the Warwick to Wallangarra line is due to commence in early-June 2018 and be completed by mid-October," the minister said.

Mr Lister said questions over costs to the delay, removal and transport weren't being answered sufficiently.

"When we're facing rising costs in government, especially in Queensland Rail, it's appalling that management like this can be defended (by the minister).

"Considering that these railway sleepers have been sitting out there for months, just as they sat out there for months last time. They get pinched.

"I wonder about the excuse that the CEO provided that there are higher priority areas elsewhere. I doubt very much that the sleepers were plonked on flatbeds and taken to Emerald instead.

"It's taxpayers' dollars and it reflects badly on this line which is an important tourism and strategic asset for the Southern Downs.

"The disappointing thing here is you've got a minister who is defending what appears to be the indefensible."

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