The Great Train Robbery of Maryborough

The Great Train Robbery of Maryborough

For decades, Maryborough, north of Brisbane, has been the proud train manufacturing hub of the state. The town was involved in constructing every set of Queensland Rail’s electric trains since they were first introduced to the fleet.

But when Downer EDI lost its contract to build the next set of trains back in 2014, the future for Maryborough looked bleak. Then Queensland Premier Campbell Newman shipped 75 new trains and the jobs that came with them, offshore to India. The town began to lose hundreds of high paying, high skill jobs, and many locals were left with no choice but to leave.

Bombardier, another manufacturing company, closed its doors just 12 months later in 2015.

It’s no secret that many regional towns have fought to grow at the best of times, and the decision was a kick in the guts for an already struggling area. Speculation even mounted that Downer would close its factory too.

It wasn’t just the hundreds of employees of the factory who lost jobs. The sub-contractors, who made and delivered materials, suddenly lost their biggest client. The cafes and shops of Maryborough, where the workers had spent their money, struggled to get by.

The tragedy of Maryborough was supposed to be justified for Queensland as a whole. It was claimed the taxpayer would benefit, because trains could be made overseas for far cheaper. But as time progressed, a litany of problems emerged.

New trains, new problems

 The Indian-made trains weren’t compliant with disability legislation, and cost more than expected to maintain. They also needed new electrical systems.

 It turns out the overseas trains weren’t the bargain the Government thought it would be. In fact, they’d come with another price tag – ripping up a proud town’s history and legacy, and taking away the opportunities of a new generation of regional Queenslanders.

Fast forward to 2016, and a new State Government made the decision to give an $80 million contract to Downer to do the upgrading work, bringing back some of the jobs lost in the bloodletting two years beforehand.

But ultimately, the Downer factory remains a shadow of its former self, for now. In a few years, there’ll be another chance to build trains at Maryborough. Just recently, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced plans to make that happen, with a $1 billion package which would see the next generation of trains made back on Queensland soil. Hopefully, that means the next generation of Maryborough families won’t have to leave.

More reading:

1) Queensland joins WA in move to boost train manufacturing

2) Queensland election: Labor promise to have problematic Indian trains fixed in Maryborough to cost $100 million

3)Bombardier to downsize and close M’boro factory


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