Queensland Rail

Queensland Rail, also known as QR, is a railway operator in Queensland, Australia. Owned by the Queensland Government, it operates suburban and long-distance passenger services, as well as owning and maintaining approximately 6,600 kilometres of track.

Queensland Rail
IndustryRailway operator
Founded31 July 1865
Area served
Key people
Nick Easy (CEO)
Revenue$1,881 million (2016/17)
$325 million (2016/17)
$101 million (2016/17)
Number of employees
6,520 (June 2017)
ParentQueensland Government

QR also was responsible for all Queensland freight services and from 2002 operated interstate services under the Australian Railroad Group, Interail and QR National brands. These were all spun out into a separate entity in July 2010 and later privatised as Aurizon.



Queensland Railways was the first operator in the world to adopt narrow gauge (in this case 1,067 mm or 3 ft 6 in) for a main line,[1] and this remains the systemwide gauge within Queensland today.

The colony of Queensland separated from New South Wales in 1859, and the new government was keen to facilitate development and immigration. Improved transport to the fertile Darling Downs region situated west of Toowoomba was seen as a priority. As adequate river transport was already established between the capital Brisbane and the then separate settlement of Ipswich, the railway commenced from the latter locality and the initial section, built over relatively flat, easy country opened to Bigge's Camp, at the eastern base of the Little Liverpool Range, on 31 July 1865. Called the Main Line, the only significant engineering work on that section was the bridge over the Bremer River to North Ipswich.

Tunneling excavation through the Little Liverpool Range delayed the opening of the next section to Gatton by 10 months, but the line was opened to Toowoomba in 1867, the ascent of the Main Range being the reason for the adoption of narrow gauge.

Built by the Queensland Government to the unusual (for the time) gauge of 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in), the line largely followed the alignment surveyed by a private company, the Moreton Bay Tramway Company, which had proposed to build a 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge horse-drawn tramway but had been unable to raise funds to do so beyond an initial start on earthworks.

The adoption of narrow gauge was controversial at the time, and was largely predicated by the government's desire for the fastest possible construction timeframe at least cost.[2] This resulted in adoption of sharper curves and a lower axle load than was considered possible using standard gauge, and an assessment at the time put the cost of a narrow gauge line from Ipswich to Toowoomba at 25% of the cost of a standard gauge line. In a colony with a non-indigenous population of 30,000 when the decision was made, it is understandable.

The network evolved as a series of isolated networks. It wasn't until the completion of the North Coast line in December 1924 that all were joined.[3] The exception was the Normanton to Croydon line which always remained isolated. At its peak in 1932, the network totaled 10,500 kilometres.

Changing transport patterns resulted in the closure of many development branch lines from 1948 onwards, but at the same time the main lines were upgraded to provide contemporary services, and from the 1970s an extensive network of new lines was developed, particularly to service export coal mines.


Commencing in November 1979 the Brisbane suburban network was electrified.

In 1978, discussions were commenced on possible electrification of the Blackwater and Goonyella coal networks. This was due to an expected increase in coal traffic across the networks, ageing diesel-electric locomotive fleet and the increase in diesel fuel costs. By early 1983, a decision had been made to electrify the networks and by early 1984 contracts were already starting to be let for the new locomotives and other works for the project. The decision was made to electrify with the 25 kV AC railway electrification system as used on the Brisbane suburban network. This would allow future connection of the Brisbane network with the coal networks via the North Coast line.

The project was to be carried out in four stages:[4]

Stage 1: Electrification of the main line from Gladstone to Rockhampton, including parts of Rockhampton marshalling yard, then west to Blackwater and the coal mines in the area. This was a total of 720 kilometres (450 mi) of track.

Stage 2: Electrification of the coal lines south of Dalrymple Bay and Hay Point, then west through the Goonyella system, south-west to Blair Athol and south to Gregory – linking the Goonyella system to the Blackwater system. This was a total of 773 kilometres (480 mi) of track.

Stage 3: Electrification of the main western line from Burngrove to Emerald. This would allow electric freight from Rockhampton to Emerald.

Stage 4: Electrification of the line from Newlands coal mine to Collinsville and north-east to Abbott Point. This stage never went ahead. In 1986 it was decided to electrify the North Coast line between Brisbane and Gladstone instead and this became known as Stage 4.[5][6]

Interstate expansion

In September 1999 Queensland Rail was rebranded as QR.[7] In March 2002 Queensland Rail purchased Northern Rivers Railroad and rebranded it Interail, fulfilling a long-held ambition of to expand beyond its state borders.[8][9]

In March 2003 Queensland Rail entered the Hunter Valley coal market when Interail commenced a contract from Duralie Colliery to Stratford Mine. Another coal contract was won in late 2003 for the haulage of coal from Newstan Colliery, Fassifern to Vales Point Power Station. In 2004 Interail began running Brisbane to Melbourne and Sydney to Melbourne intermodal services. In June 2005 Queensland Rail acquired the CRT Group.[10]

In June 2006 the Western Australian business of the Australian Railroad Group was purchased.[11][12][13]

Privatisation and current era

In June 2009 the Queensland Government announced the privatisation of Queensland Rail's freight business.[14][15] This resulted in Queensland Rail's freight assets being transferred to QR National (now Aurizon) from 1 July 2010.

In April 2013 the Queensland Parliament passed the Queensland Rail Transit Authority Bill 2013 that restructured Queensland Rail.[16] The explanatory notes published for the bill outlined that the existing Queensland Rail Limited entity would remain although no longer be a Government Owned Corporation and that entity would become a subsidiary of a new Queensland Rail Transit Authority (QRTA), in effect creating a Queensland Rail group. Under the revised arrangements Queensland Rail Limited retained assets and liabilities and staff were transferred to the QRTA.[17] As a result of transferring the staff to the QRTA, the government moved those employees from the federal industrial relations system to the state based industrial relations system, giving the state more control over industrial arrangements.[17][18] In November 2013 five labor unions commenced legal proceedings in the High Court of Australia alleging that the QRTA was subject to the federal industrial jurisdiction rather than the state system.[18] In April 2015 the court ruled the QRTA was subject to the Fair Work Act 2009 and the federal industrial relations jurisdiction.[19]

Company Officers


The Commissioners of the Queensland Railways were:

Note: from 29 April 1869 to 15 July 1870, the Secretary for Public Works was appointed Commissioner for Railways.[23][24]

Note: from 29 July 1889 a Board of three Commissioners was appointed to reduce political influence.[25] This was reduced back to a single Commissioner in September 1895.[26]

  • 29 July 1889 – 30 June 1896: John Mathieson (Chief Commissioner)[22]
  • 29 July 1889 – September 1895: Robert John Gray (1st Assistant Commissioner)[22]
  • 29 July 1889 – 13 December 1894: Andrew Johnston (2nd Assistant Commissioner)[22]
  • 1 July 1896 – 30 September 1902: Robert John Gray[22]
  • 5 November 1902 – 24 March 1911: James Forsyth Thallon[22]
  • 30 March 1911 – 31 May 1911: Thomas Mulhall King[22]
  • 1 June 1911 – 31 October 1918: Barnard Charles Evans[22]
  • 1 November 1918 – 28 February 1938: James Walker Davidson[22][27]
  • 1 March 1938 – 28 February 1941: Curteis Anthony Murton[28]
  • 9 March 1941 – 27 February 1948: Percy Robert Turner Wills[29]
  • 1 March 1948 – 31 August 1952: Timothy Edward Maloney[30]
  • 1 September 1952 – 31 August 1962: Gerald Vincent Moriarty[31]
  • September 1962 – 4 July 1976: Alva George Lee[32]
  • 5 July 1976 – 17 December 1982: Percy James Goldston[33][34]
  • 13 January 1983 – April 1986: Douglas Vernon Mendoza[35][36]
  • 20 May 1986 – 31 July 1989: Ralph T. Sheehy[37][38]
  • 1 August 1989 – December 1989: Ross William Dunning[39][40]
  • December 1989 – 7 October 1990: Robin G. Read (Acting Commissioner)[40][41]
  • 8 October 1990 – 30 June 1991: Vincent John O'Rourke[41]

Note: from 1 July 1991 the position of Commissioner for Railways ceased to exist, replaced by a Chief Executive Officer, reporting to a board of Directors.[42]

Chief Executive Officers

Name Tenure Notes
Vincent John O'Rourke July 1991 - December 2000
Bob Scheuber December 2000 - April 2007
Stephen Cantwell April 2007 - November 2007
Lance Hockridge[43] November 2007 - 30 June 2010
Paul Scurrah 1 July 2010 - 2 December 2011[44] From formation of revised Queensland Rail entity following Public float of QR National. Previously Executive General Manager of QR Passenger subsidiary.[43]
James Benstead December 2011 - August 2013
Glen Dawe August 2013[45] - January 2014[46]
Helen Gluer 3 April 2014 - 27 October 2016[47]
Neil Scales October 2016 - March 2017
Nick Easy March 2017[48] -


City network

QR operates urban and interurban rail and bus services throughout South East Queensland as part of the TransLink network. Rail services operate on twelve lines; Beenleigh, Caboolture, Cleveland, Doomben, Exhibition, Ferny Grove, Gold Coast, Ipswich-Rosewood, Redcliffe Peninsula, Shorncliffe, Springfield and Sunshine Coast. QR operate these with the Electric Multiple Units (EMU), Suburban Multiple Units (SMU), Interurban Multiple Units (IMU), InterCity Express (ICE) and New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) class electric multiple units.[49]

Due to low patronage, the Corinda to Yeerongpilly and Doomben to Pinkenba lines have had their services replaced by buses, while due to capacity constraints, services on the Sunshine Coast between Caboolture and Nambour are supplemented by a bus service.

Long-distance trains

Queensland Rail operate these long-range passenger rail services[50]

Connecting road coach services are operated.[51]

Annual patronage for these services in 2011/12 was 795,000.[52] In 2007/08, the subsidy for the Brisbane-Cairns route was $130 million, or $900 per passenger. In 2001/02 it was $270 million.[53][54]

Tourist trains

Queensland Rail also operate these tourist trains:[50]

Former services

Queensland Rail operated many named trains including:

Rolling stock

QR sourced steam locomotives from many manufacturers including Armstrong Whitworth, Avonside Engine Company, Beyer, Peacock & Company, Dübs & Co, Kitson & Co, Nasmyth, Wilson & Co, Neilson and Company, North British Locomotive Company, Vulcan Foundry and Yorkshire Engine Company all of the United Kingdom, Baldwin Locomotive Works of the United States, as well as Australian manufacturers Clyde Engineering, Evans, Anderson, Phelan & Co, Islington Railway Workshops, Newport Workshops, Phoenix Engine Company, Toowoomba Foundry and Walkers Limited. It also built some in-house at North Ipswich Railway Workshops.[58]

Dieselisation commenced in 1952 with early purchases being imported from GE Transportation and English Electric, before standardising on locally made products from A Goninan & Co, Clyde Engineering, English Electric and Walkers Limited. Electric locomotives were purchased from Clyde Engineering, Walkers Limited and Siemens. Electric multiple units have been purchased from Walkers Limited, Downer Rail and Bombardier Transportation, the latter of two which are still present in Queensland to this day.


Class Image Type Top speed (km/h) Built Number of units Routes operated Notes
City network fleet
EMU Electric multiple unit 100 1979–1987 40 (September 2019) City network (except Interurban services) Currently being progressively retired since July 2018. More than half of the fleet (including units 60–79) has been withdrawn.
ICE Electric multiple unit 120 1988–1989 6 (August 2019) City network (Gympie North services only) Currently being progressively retired since January 2019. Units 153 and 157 have been withdrawn from service; spare parts from withdrawn units are being used to keep current ones running.
SMU200 Electric multiple unit 100 1994–1995 11 City network (except Interurban services)
IMU100 Electric multiple unit 140 1996–1997 10 City network
SMU220 Electric multiple unit 100 1999–2001 30 City network (except Interurban services)
IMU120 Electric multiple unit 140 2001 4 City network
IMU160 Electric multiple unit 130 2006–2011 28 City network
SMU260 Electric multiple unit 130 2008–2011 35 City network
NGR700 Electric multiple unit 140 2015–2019 73 (September 2019) City network (except Ferny Grove, Beenleigh, Rosewood & Sunshine Coast lines[59][60])
Locomotive fleet1
1720 class Diesel locomotive 100 1966–1970 15 Kuranda Scenic Railway, Traveltrain services and infrastructure trains. The most common use for the 1720 Class is as secondary motive power on the Spirit of the Outback and as the main motive power on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, the locomotives also see regular use on Infrastructure Trains.
2150 class Diesel locomotive 100 1966–1970 6 Traveltrain services and infrastructure trains.
2400 class Diesel locomotive 100 1966–1970 5 Traveltrain services and infrastructure trains.
2470 class Diesel locomotive 100 1980–1983 5 Traveltrain services and infrastructure trains.
Traveltrain fleet
Electric Tilt Train Tilting electric multiple unit 160 1997 2 North Coast line (as far as Rockhampton)
Diesel Tilt Train Tilting diesel multiple unit 160 2003, 2014 3 North Coast line
Tourist train fleet
DL class Diesel locomotive 50 1961 1 DL4 used as backup for the Gulflander's RM 93. Currently under major maintenance at North Ipswich Railway Workshops
45 hp rail motor Railmotor 40 1931 1 RM60 based at Normanton, used for charters.
102 hp rail motor Railmotor 50 1950 1 Gulflander RM93 based at Normanton, used for weekly Gulflander service. RM93 was converted to the General Manager's Inspection Car for the Central Division in 1972. It was then modified back to full railmotor seating capacity in 1981, and arrived in Normanton in 1982.   
1800 class Railmotor (trailers) 50 1952–1954 2 Gulflander TP1809 is used on the Gulflander tourist railway as a trailer car. TP1811 was originally designated as RM1811, meaning it was a power car. It was formerly used as the commissioner's car and has upgraded suspension to this day.
Heritage fleet
A10 class Steam locomotive 40 1865–1866 2 No. 6 operational, Australia's oldest operational steam locomotive. Usually placed on display at the Workshops Rail Museum when not required for special trains. No. 3 lasted in service until 1914, and has been retained for preservation and displayed at several locations; it is currently being restored to operation at the North Ipswich Railway Workshops.
B13 class Steam locomotive 112 1883-1895 1 No. 48 located in a storage shed at the North Ipswich Railway Workshops and awaits removal of boiler lagging and repainting before it can be publicly displayed.
B15 class Steam locomotive 98 1889-1899 1 No. 290 located in a storage shed at the North Ipswich Railway Workshops and is awaiting removal of boiler lagging and repainting before it can be publicly displayed.
PB15 class Steam locomotive 65 1899–1926 2 No. 732 stored pending overhaul. No. 444 now displayed at the entrance to the Workshops Rail Museum.
B13 1/2 class Steam locomotive 6 1904-1905 1 No. 398 known as Pompey is now stored undercover after being displayed outside at the Workshops Rail Museum.
C17 class Steam locomotive 80 1920–1953 3 No. 974 operational (currently on hire to Mary Valley Rattler). No. 1000 being restored to working order. No. 2 located in a storage shed at the North Ipswich Railway Workshops awaiting removal of boiler lagging and repainting before it can be publicly displayed.
C19 class Steam locomotive 26 1922-1935 1 No. 700 located in a storage shed at the North Ipswich Railway Workshops awaiting removal of boiler lagging and repainting before it can be publicly displayed.
B18¼ class Steam locomotive 83 1926-1947 1 No. 771 located in a storage shed at the North Ipswich Railway Workshops awaiting removal of boiler lagging and repainting before it can be publicly displayed.
DL class Diesel locomotive 50 1939 1 On display at the North Ipswich Railway Workshops. Queensland's first diesel locomotive. Currently not operational.
AC16 class Steam locomotive 80 1943 1 No. 221A awaiting testing after having large boiler tubes replaced. (USATC S118 Class)
DD17 class Steam locomotive 80 1948–1952 1 No. 1051 is awaiting reassembly and repainting after undertaking heavy overhaul including brakes, boiler and cabin.
Beyer-Garratt Steam locomotive 80 1950–1951 1 No. 1009 stored. Restoration aborted due to insufficient parts, tools, workers and money. May be displayed in the Workshops Rail Museum in the future.
BB18¼ class Steam locomotive 80 1950–1958 2 No. 1079 operational. No. 1089 awaiting a boiler inspection.
1150 class Diesel locomotive 80 1952 1 1159 stored pending restoration.
1400 class Diesel locomotive 80 1955 1 1407 stored pending restoration.
1170 class Diesel locomotive 80 1956 1 1170 stored pending restoration.
1900 class Railmotor 80 1956 1 1901 operational, also used as inspection and hired tourist vehicles.
2000 class Railmotor 80 1956–1971 6 2034 and 2036 operational, also used as inspection and hired tourist vehicles. 2057 is awaiting a new engine before being re-introduced into the operational QR Heritage fleet with some new internal modifications; including Disabled Access and Toilet facilities. 2005, 2024 and 2031 are currently stored.
1450 class Diesel locomotive 80 1957 3 1450, 1455 and 1459 stored pending restoration.
1250 class Diesel locomotive 80 1959 1 1262 on display at Workshops Rail Museum.
SX carriages Passenger car 80 1961–1962 7 Formed into one 7-car set. Currently under light restoration to replace floors. A second set is also on site.
1600 class Diesel locomotive 80 1962 1 1603 stored pending restoration.
1700 class Diesel locomotive 12 1963 1 1710's cab used as a driving simulator at the Workshops Rail Museum.
1460 class Diesel locomotive 80 1964 1 1461 operational.
1270 class Diesel locomotive 80 1964 2 1270 stored pending restoration. 1281 is on display at the Workshops Rail Museum.
DH class Diesel locomotive 50 1966 2 DH2 and DH71 stored.
1620 class Diesel locomotive 80 1967 1 1620 stored pending complete rewiring of electrical systems. Unlikely to be operational for the foreseeable future.
Special cars
Vice-Regal Car 80 1903 1 Car 445 is a special saloon retained for use by the Governor of Queensland and is still considered a working item of rollingstock in the QR fleet, however it is on permanent loan to Workshops Rail Museum.[61]

1 This table only includes locomotives owned by Queensland Rail. QR also hires locomotives from Aurizon as required.


From its inception, QR's primary workshops were the North Ipswich Railway Workshops. It was replaced by the Redbank Railway Workshops in the 1960s.


Notable incidents involving Queensland Rail include:

  • On 15 November 2004, a Diesel Tilt Train VCQ5 derailed at Berajondo on the North Coast line due to excessive speed resulting in injuries to over 100 people.[62]
  • On 21 September 2001, EMU units 05 and 60 collided with a cattle train near Petrie, causing two carriages of Unit 05 and one carriage of Unit 60 to be scrapped, with the three remaining carriages merged to form EMU 60.[63]
  • On 31 January 2013, a passenger train failed to stop at Cleveland station and collided with the station toilet block resulting in major damage to the train and minor injuries to several commuters and staff.[64]
  • On 23 March 1985, two passenger trains collided head-on near Trinder Park station on the Beenleigh line. Two people died (one of whom was the driver of the south-bound train), and 31 people sustained injuries. Affected units EMU11 and EMU27 were both travelling concurrently on the single track section of the line, despite several "fail-safe" measures and the use of RCS (remote control signalling).[65][66]
  • On 14 September 2012, a passenger train (EMU) collided with a heavy vehicle that became grounded on the level crossing at St Vincent's Road, Banyo, on the Shorncliffe line. The train driver performed all necessary braking measures, however they were not alerted in time and the train collided with the vehicle, causing extensive damage to the vehicle and the train (along with another train that was in the stationary near the crash). Injuries were sustained by both drivers.[67]
  • On 26 February 2019, a six-car SMU unit hit and killed a woman at Deagon railway station. The train was heading south on the Shorncliffe line. All trains were suspended on the Shorncliffe line until police investigations concluded, causing multiple hour delays on the Shorncliffe line and others.[68]

Criticism and controversy

Sunlander 14 and Traveltrain Renewal

In December 2014 the Queensland Audit Office published a report about QR's Sunlander 14 project. The Sunlander 14 project had a scope to acquire a total of 25 carriages to replace The Sunlander passenger train with a new Diesel Tilt Train, purchase additional luxury cars for the two existing Diesel Tilt Trains and refurbish their existing carriages.

The project was initially costed at $195 million and allowed for the operation of five services a week. However, costs had risen by 2012, and the Queensland Auditor-General reported that the eventual cost would be from $358 to $404 million, because QR had failed to take into account the requirement for upgraded maintenance facilities, as well as en route provisioning.[69] The Auditor-General also believed, due to issues with the business case that QR had overestimated how popular the new service would be, and had a mistaken belief that the 'luxury' component of the train would attract more high-paying customers.[70]

In 2013 the project was scaled back, with the train length being reduced to nine cars by removing the luxury sleepers and restaurant cars. That resulted in a revised project cost of $204 million. The Auditor-General's report in particular highlighted that due to the fixed-price construction contract the cost per train car increased and that opportunities were missed to pursue broader long distance train fleet renewal.[69]

Redcliffe Peninsula railway line and subsequent driver shortages

The Redcliffe Peninsula railway line opened on 4 October 2016 and created a revised timetable that resulted in a 9% increase in services across the network.[71] Queensland Rail did not have sufficient traincrew to operate the increased services. On 21 October a substantial interruption of service occurred involving the cancellation without notice of 167 services (12% of the scheduled services for the day) due to compulsory rest periods required for the train crew (a break of at least 32 hours required when a crew member has worked 11 consecutive days or 14 consecutive shifts).[71]

Following the service interruptions the head of the train service delivery unit was stood down[72] and an interim timetable implemented that reversed the increase in services and demand for traincrew.[71] Several weeks after the service interruptions Queensland Rail CEO Helen Gluer announced her resignation from the company, along with chairman Michael Klug.[73] It was announced on 27 October 2016, that the Director-General of the Department of Transport and Main Roads, Neil Scales, would replace Helen Gluer and that an inquiry known as the Queensland Rail Train Crewing Practices Investigation would be led by Phillip Strachan into the events.[74]

On 25 December 2016 another substantial service cancellation event occurred due to a lack of available traincrew to operate the services.[75][76] On that day 261 services, or 36% of scheduled services did not operate.[71] The underlying reason for the cancellations was a lack of available drivers to operate services. Queensland Rail's Chief Operating Officer resigned several days later.[76]

The inquiry into Queensland Rail's train crewing conducted by Phillip Strachan was completed in February 2017. The report made a number of findings and provided 36 recommendations that the Queensland Government accepted. The findings included that Queensland Rail had experienced a 9% increase in demand for traincrew due to the revised timetable while also experiencing a 7% decrease in traincrew productivity as a result of revised industrial arrangements, had intentionally operated for a number of years with an under-supply of traincrew and utilised the shortfall to provide paid overtime opportunities, had reduced traincrew intake during 2014-15 in the lead-up to the opening of the new line, had restrictions on external recruitment and had a longer driver training period than like organisations.[71] The report also highlighted unclear governance arrangements and a short term focus within the operations section that relied on intuition rather than accurate forecasting and a reluctance to share bad news as contributing factors.[77][71] The recommendations from the report centered around demand management, supply management, people and process management and governance arrangements.[71]

Following the completion of the Strachan inquiry Philip Strachan was appointed as Chair of the Queensland Rail Board replacing Acting Chair Nicole Hollows,[78] who had been appointed following the resignation Michael Klug.[79] A Citytrain Response Unit was established within the Department of Transport and Main Roads to oversee the implementation of the recommendations from the Strachan inquiry.[80] The Citytrain Response Unit subsequently commissioned a whole of business review into the organisation that was conducted by Deutsche Bahn and delivered in July 2017[81] and published reports tracking the progress of the implementation of the recommendations.[82] Executive bonus payments were also suspended for 2017.[83]

See also


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