QR announces significant decentralisation of business

By: Troy Bilsborough

Queensland Rail is set to undergo a significant decentralisation, CEO Lance Hockridge announced to staff last night. Queensland Business Review can

Queensland Rail is set to undergo a significant decentralisation, CEO Lance Hockridge announced to staff last night.

Queensland Business Review can reveal new subsidiaries will be created for QR's Passenger, Network and Services businesses, all of which will be wholly-owned and guaranteed by QR Limited.

Subsidiaries will also be created within QR Freight for the Coal and Regional Freight businesses while an existing subsidiary will be used for the Intermodal (Queensland) business.

Although a new subsidiary will be created for Regional Freight, work will continue on transitioning it into QR's new national logistics and retail freight business.

It is said this new business will form part of the broader QR Freight portfolio.

Hockridge says the decentralisation is necessary to improve the "accountability and transparency of the businesses for our staff, customers and other stakeholders".

But industry sources are pointing to the move as the next step in Premier Anna Bligh’s long-denied privatisation plans for the government-owned corporation, after the timely resignation of Translink general manager Luke Franzmann late last week.

Those claims remain denied.

Transport Minister John Mickel has also rubbished talk the move will worsen, not improve, QR’s timetabling problems, something which has hit Bligh hard after she was forced to create a special investigative unit to target growing congestion and commuter anger after a disastrous Easter weekend.

He says the new structure aligns with the plans for the new transit authority.

Unions are belived to be growing restless over the move, with rumours of a possible walkout circulating after an email to staff from Hockridge revealed QR's intention to "negotiate replacement union collective agreements to cover future terms and conditions of employment for employees in each of the subsidiaries."

Mickel says the government is currently involved in discussions with the workforce.

Hockridge has attempted to play down such concerns, adamant any changes to working conditions will only come about as a result of "normal" union negotiations.

Employees of the Passenger, Network and Services business units will transfer to the relevant companies on July 1 this year, while employees of Coal, Intermodal (Queensland) and Regional Freight will transfer on 1 August.

The corporate restructuring is said to not affect the business and employees of ARG, CRT and Interail due to their status as already wholly-owned subsidiary companies of QR Limited.

The QR Freight, Passenger, Network and Services businesses will be accountable for their financial and operational performance, while most assets will remain owned by QR Limited, which will allocate them to the subsidiary companies under commercial agreements.

The Network subsidiary will hold its own assets.

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