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Urban rail news in brief - July 2015
Inland rail a trifecta for Toowoomba region: mayor
TAXIS costing taxpayers as much as $750 a fare are being used to take train drivers home after a fortnight's work.
An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has found driver shortages and a rule that sometimes prevents a driver from travelling home as a rail passenger are to blame.
A Rail Corp driver who preferred to remain anonymous told how he was driven home to Taree from Grafton this month in a taxi costing $685.
Rail Corp spokeswoman Helen Willoughby conceded that it was common practice to send drivers home in taxis.
"The choice we faced was a taxi bill of $685 or a cancelled service that would have cost $40,000," she said. "From time to time we do have situations where we need to use taxis."
Ms Willoughby said the fare from Grafton to Taree was not common, but once a month a taxi trip from Grafton to Casino was necessary. The practice occurs all over NSW.
Rail Corp is working with the rail safety regulator to gain exemptions from the rules and avoid the fares.
The problem occurs because new health and safety regulations say drivers need an 11-hour break away from a train at the end of their working fortnight.
If they catch a taxi home, it does not eat into that time, allowing Rail Corp to begin their next shift earlier.
Grafton taxi drivers are reaping the benefits of the policy. Several drivers told The Sunday Telegraph they often accepted fares of up to $750 to drive Rail Corp employees hundreds of kilometres home.
Grafton Taxi Co-Op president Ken Bell said many state and federal government departments provided huge cabcharges for their employees and clients.
"We have driven train drivers to Lismore, Taree, Coffs Harbour and Brisbane. The fare to Taree is about $650 and a trip to Brisbane about $750," Mr Bell said.
The revelation comes as residents of regional towns prepare to protest against the State Government's plans to cut back regional rail services.
Liberal MP Catherine Cusack, who will lead a protest on Wednesday against the planned cancellation of the Murwillumbah-Casino train service, said thousands of dollars could be saved by improving the management of Rail Corp employees.
Transport Services Minister Michael Costa refused to comment on the matter.
The Sunday Telegraph (via News.com.au)
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